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As a child, I grew up in a semi-rural/suburban community. In one direction you could easily drive towards the city and the opposite direction would take you into farm country—a fifteen-minute drive, either way. I used to cycle both directions, and I developed a fondness for both alike, sketching pictures of old barns and forest landscapes. On other occasions, I'd visit the city to shop and take pictures, only to sketch them later on. These hobbies were the result of my grandparents, who visited every summer from Europe. They would arrive soon after school was out and return just before September. In many ways, they had a stronger impact on my activities throughout childhood, more so than my parents or friends.
Board Games and Strategy
My grandfather taught me checkers and a handful of card games. Some of them were more exciting than others, but we always enjoyed checkers. It was a game of strategy and made me think. He wouldn't let me move quickly either. Think first, then go. It sparked an interest in learning chess, which I also played later on in my teens. In a way, this was where I learned to develop critical thinking skills—deciding how to plan, think, and not simply following his lead. He encouraged me to think.
Learning to Ride My Bicycle
My parents worked a lot, even in the summer, so time was limited with them. We did spend time together, but a lot was left to learn on my own or through someone else. My grandfather taught me how to ride my bike. I struggled so much, until I was seven, and then he let go of the seat. That feeling of freedom and achievement was awesome. I've never stopped cycling since!
Homemade is the best.
We lived close to a farmer's market, so early in life I learned to appreciate fresh and natural foods. We had our own garden and made our own jams, pickled beets, peppers, and many other goodies. Both of my grandparents baked and cooked, inventing interesting combinations of custard with gooseberries and rhubarb or different stews. They also baked bread, buns, and glazed cookies that were unlike anything I could find in a bakery. Nowadays I find myself trying new recipes, adding and changing as I go too. Whenever I find rhubarb, I stew it with custard, just like years ago.
You didn't need television or technology to have fun.
Back then, in the late 80s, we didn't have social media, but TV and some gaming was popular. We didn't bother with either when our grandparents visited. They kept us busy outdoors, helping in the garden, playing ball or with our pets (we had two dogs). In a way, it was much more positive and keeping active kept us healthy. It's one thing to tell kids to go play outside, and another to actually participate with them. It's much more encouraging.
Conversing Beyond the Language Barrier
My grandparents' English was limited, so I learned other languages to better communicate. They did struggle in public when ordering a coffee or asking a store clerk. It felt good to help them sometimes, and over the years they were able to understand more, but I also learned the value of multilingualism and gestures. There are so many ways to communicate. Music is another form of expression, and humour too, both of which I learned to appreciate.
Overall, they were kind people and they extended generosity and courtesy to my friends, our neighbors, and family. They enjoyed spending time with us and our pets. They were animal lovers and treated our cats, dogs, and other pets with affection. I miss my grandparents and will always treasure my memories of them growing up. Their love and influence will live on in many of us who were fortunate to grow up with them.