Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thank You, Kerrville

As children, my brother and I spent many a vacation in Kerrville, Texas at my grandparents' house.  Now, you may be thinking that Kerrville doesn't necessarily sound like a luxurious place to vacay, but like my mom's parents' place in Maine, my dad's parents' place set in Texas' Hill Country is a kid's dream, and one that has a special place in my heart.

The property is 9 or so acres within a 3000-acre working ranch, so opportunities abound for exploring creek beds for arrowheads, skipping rocks into the lake, finding the perfect walking stick, and keeping an eye out for deer, blackbuck antelope and mouflon sheep.  When we were kids (gloriously before insurance premiums took the fun out of nearly everything), we galloped on horses and dove from the diving board at the community pool.  We played tag on the windmill out front (so much for parental supervision!), tiptoed across the cattle guard, and baked many batches of cookies and peanut brittle in Grandma's kitchen.

My grandfather, a mechanical engineer by trade, could build anything.  I felt so privileged to be invited into his workshop to help construct delicate miniature furniture that outfitted the Victorian dollhouse he made for me.  He built model planes that really flew.  He once sawed off half his pinky finger just before a big camping trip, and decided to leave it off because he figured he didn't need it much anyway (although I think he especially delighted in shocking the younger grandkids with the real live version of the ole 'separating your finger from your hand' trick).

I felt wistful as we entered the property this year, reaching the place in the hill that descends down towards the lake where you can spot my grandparents' windmill and barn from across the valley.  I wished my kids could have met my brilliant grandfather, whom we lost far too young to early-onset Alzheimer's.  I told stories about him, and Alex (whose middle name comes from his grandfather) said that he figured he got his grandfather's good building skills.  I like that he feels a connection to someone that is special to me, despite the fact they never got to spend time together.

I do feel so fortunate that my kids get to spend time with their great-grandmother.  This year, she taught all the great-grandkids how to play Charades, and Jackson got a lesson in a few solitaire card games.  In my parenting moment of the year, I bribed Kenyon with a promise of candy to entice him to come out from hiding underneath the table and participate in this picture with his brothers, cousins, and great-Grandma.

We followed the typical Thanksgiving itinerary--gorged ourselves on my mom's cooking, hung out, and played Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Mexican Train.  The kids got some good time in with their cousins.

We picnicked and explored at Dinosaur Rock one afternoon.  
What picture of any Nana and Papa with their grandkids would be complete without the obligatory grumpy 3-year old smack dab in the middle?

On the way back from the picnic, a group of horses were clustered right by the road, so we rolled down the windows and stopped to say hello.  

Um....horses' heads are big.  I astutely noted this as the horses stuck their heads inside of our vehicle.  Well, hello there!  It was part cute (my mom's thinking), part frightening (my dad's thinking) to pet their soft noses and eventually thank them for their congeniality but we must really be going now, don't you have some hay to nibble on or something?
Mom with an overly friendly horse
One night, Jackson braved the cold with my two cousins that he idolizes and my aunt (nicknamed Uncle Nora) to witness the Christmas Parade in Comfort, TX.
We'll be roughly 9,000 miles away from Kerrville this time next year, likely not celebrating Thanksgiving at all, but the feeling of family will stay with me despite the distance.  I love these people.

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