I have a hard time remembering the things I got for Christmas, but I could tell you story after story of the places my mom and dad took me and the things we did together as a family at home. Now that I’m grown, we still laugh about the time I made cookies with Mom and I got really tired of the process close to the end. The cookies kept getting bigger and bigger as my interest level diminished. My dad still plants a garden every year, and it brings back memories of when he would let me plant the seeds and then take me out to look at how big the radishes were getting. He’d let me pull them up when they were ready. One day he taught me how to play the game of chess, and then we played it night after night. These are some of my fondest memories and the ones we still talk about many years later.
Growing up, my parents read bedtime stories to me every night, some of them over and over until I’m sure they were tired of them. When I became a mom, I took my turn and read stories to my daughter. Once she became a mom, we all read books at bedtime to her children. I believe this one repeated activity laid the foundation for my love of reading to this day. I also have a deep love for creation and nature due to the constant nature walks my dad took me on. He recently reminded me of a walk we took together when we discovered a spider web covered in dew. Dad took a stick and lightly touched the web so I could watch the spider run out to see what she had caught for breakfast, only to find us laughing about her misfortune. Both mom and dad took the time to show me things like a bird’s nest or a rainbow on the wall reflecting through a suncatcher, and even listening to an owl hooting in the woods behind our house. I was summoned from my room or out to the back porch whenever something interesting was spotted. Just now, my 86-year-old dad interrupted my writing and asked me to join him on the back porch to watch a distant thunderstorm lighting up the dark sky way off in the distance—now, I can add this to my special memory bank.
When my daughter was younger, I tried to carry on with this tradition. I was a single mom, and we did not have a lot of money, so traveling far and taking expensive trips was not affordable for us. There also wasn’t much to spend on boxes full of toys. So, I took her to every state and national park within a day’s drive of where we lived and found places of interest to show her. We spent one vacation in an out-of-the-way cabin close to the Smoky Mountains National Park and explored the woods and trails as much as possible. We even got inner tubes and tubed down one of the shallow rivers in the park, scraping our bottoms on the rocks and laughing hysterically. We picked out Christmas trees and spent hours trying to make them stand up in a bucket of rocks and worked on school projects together. She still talks about all the things we did together and what great memories they are for her.
These days, we still make trips to the local tourist centers closest to us and browse the brochures looking for family outing ideas to take the grandkids to. I also check the calendar for our state each year and make note of the festivals we can plan to attend on a day trip. Just last week, my daughter and I insisted the teenagers come with us to a walk-through Christmas light show at a park about an hour away. They went kicking and screaming all the way there but sheepishly admitted on the way home that they had a great time! We also discovered a farm down the road has a brand-new baby donkey, so my grandson and I drive down there every couple of weeks to check her out and give them a piece of fruit.
I could make you a list of different types of crafts to do, games to play, and even places to go, but honestly, you could probably find lots of lists online for great family activities. The heart of this message is to inspire you to involve each other in your everyday activities. It doesn’t have to be something expensive, involve a flight, or require buying anything for that matter. It can be taking a walk through the woods or spending an hour on the back porch looking for the big dipper in the night sky before reading a great bedtime story. If you enjoy something, then share it with your children and even your parents. These are the memories that will last. These are the things that will knit you and your family of all ages together.
Leigh Ann Dans has been a graphic designer for Lifeway Women for the past ten years, and worked for Lifeway over twenty-five years. She can’t wait to see her two grandchildren Macayla and Kayden and uses as much of her vacation time as she can to spend with them. She loves to think of creative ways to engage them and take them on new adventures.