Every family vacation has its theme, inside joke or something that becomes a means to remember the time spent together. On one Vermont vacation, we couldn't eat enough country-made peach pies. They were the treat--every evening and some afternoons. One year our Grands put on a magic show that was, well, magic and memorable, down to the finale of all them running around the lawns of our condo with sparklers. Last year was the year of Pride and Prejudice --the full BBC version. We would watch an hour or two every night--everyone rushed through dinner to take their seats in front of the TV for the next episode or two--and that included the 7 year old, the teenagers and the adults.
This year, unlike our previous family vacations in Vermont, our daughter and her family were not with us. Sigh. They had obligations elsewhere so this was the family summer vacation with just one set of adult kids and Grands.
It was also the vacation I fell into a pattern of reading the New York Times on the porch of my condo every morning and then wandering over to Uber son's unit armed with a scintillating article to share. The idea of a news bite from PenPen did not necessarily bring cheers from my Grands, ages 8, 13 and 15. I could almost hear groans. But once I read key parts or summarized the issue, they sat up and took notice--well, they paid some attention.
One day the story was about the attempt to do unto This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie's anthem, what had been done to Happy Birthday. That is, lift the copy right and make the song available to anyone who wanted to use it. My Grands of course knew the song--they sang a line or two before we got back to the facts--and even the 8-year-old knew what "copyright" was (her dad has written several books. Must have been a word that came up from time to time.)
Another story that drew interest: A recent dig in Hungary where anthropologists were hoping to unearth the "heart of gold" of Suleiman the Magnificent, an Ottoman warrior and leader, that was buried in a small village in Hungary when he died on the eve of battle. What's not intriguing about a dig into the past--a 16th century battlefield bunker--and a story about a warrior leaving his heart buried in a casket of gold?
Another day it was the news report that French President Francois Hollande had spent $10,000 a month on haircuts. Shocking to all (hashtag #CoiffeurGate) and lots of jokes by my Grands on hairstylist spending--especially by une homme with not that much hair on his head.
Bottom line: It didn't matter if my arrival with news story in hand became a running joke. Actually, it never dawned on me that my Grands wouldn't enjoy my news clips--nor did I care if they didn't. They could always walk away or return to whatever it was they were doing. It was more important to me that the news stories led to lively conversations--about why Arlo Guthries' heirs wouldn't want to give away the copyright (It wasn't the money; they didn't want politicians with whom they disagreed to use the song for their own purposes.) and why copyrights are important to artists. We also theorized about Turkish Suleiman the Magnificent and what he was doing so far afield in Hungary and why his entourage left the great warrior's heart behind.
The vacation of the New York Times stories might not have been as tasty as the peach pie vacation or addictive as Pride and Prejudice but it was a reminder--to me at any rate--that Grands like being part of a grown-up discussion. It is also reminder that we leave a legacy with our Grands, not just in the material things that may come their way but in little discussions, bits of advice, sharing of memories.
Who knows if my Grands will remember the summer of news story discussions or look to newspapers like the New York Times for the wide range of stories they have to tell. But they might. The daily news briefings this summer undoubtedly meant more to me than to my Grands. Newspapers are my passion. How else would we begin to understand other cultures. I can only hope they picked up a little of my enthusiasm and stay curious.