Teri Orr: Setting sails…
They dropped him off Sunday night. We all had dinner and then I had a week of my youngest grandson — the almost-14-year-old. He was enrolled in the sailing camp over at the Jordanelle Reservoir and spending the nights with me.
You know the best part of being a grandparent? Everything. The giggles, the messy sticky little toddler fingers, the squeals of delight when they see you. The surprise when they eventually tower over you and offer to carry the groceries, the birdseed bags, your suitcase.
I was a young parent by mistake and a young grandparent by good fortune. I have been able to do all kinds of hikes and bikes and amusement park stuff with the Grands — all three of them.
Each morning this past week — at an hour I don’t usually find myself functioning — we have been driving over to the reservoir. I had forgotten how close it was. And in the morning right now — before the summer is fully in bloom — the water is flat and quiet. One morning we arrived half an hour early. So we drove around a bit and looked at campsites and deserted beaches and geese and goslings afloat in formation. We were still long enough to see a mountain bluebird land on a tree and then take off again in the sunlight so his wings became a kind of iridescent blue. “Wow,” said the normally quiet almost-14-year-old. “Did you see how shiny his wings looked? He is so beautiful.”
I looked at my grandson and thought the very same thing. This youngest of The Grands may live a very urban experience in Salt Lake City but he loves life in the mountains.
It has been decades since I was making breakfasts and packing lunches and asking all those “did you remember to…” questions. By the second afternoon I realized I had forgotten to emphasize sunscreen. His cheeks were red. The next day he had lost his sunglasses. We rushed out early to buy the best pair 7-11 offered on our way to camp.
After work for me and camp for him we would have some quiet time and then head to dinner. Right now my life is too crazy to add making a thoughtful meal so we ate at a diner and a neighborhood casual place and then we sat on the patio at Cafe Terigo where I may have eaten more meals in 20 years than my own home. It was a perfect Park City night — still and quiet but in the heart of town. We talked about places we wanted to travel in the world (Tokyo is first on his list) then there were just long spaces where we felt the warmth of the night and the staff. As we wandered down the street after dinner, Axel declared it his “new favorite restaurant.” And though he has been going there since he was a baby he saw it for the first time the way I see it — a refuge that serves fabulous food.
No trip or time with Oma is complete, the Grands know — without visiting a bookstore and in Park City it is always Dolly’s. We headed in and separated by habit. Later, I found him in the back in the children’s section. “Are you looking for something special?” I asked, curious why he was there. And this over-six-foot-tall almost-freshman-in-high-school said to me, “I just remember this is where all the good stuff always was…” My heart was full.
At camp he learned to make knots on the rainy/lightning day. He loved practicing when the boat would capsize. His team was in a race and DNF. He thought that was funny. And one day they had lunch on a little island filled with spiders which were not scary but annoying. As of this writing he has one day left so there might be a different “best” moment. But currently in first place for the week was watching a giant bird (a gull, a pelican, a pterodactyl?) he couldn’t identify the exact species — but this giant bird had picked up a fish in the water and carried it in his talons and for whatever reason dropped the fish on the roof of the restrooms. And every time the kid told me about the moment he would belly laugh about it. It was, as if, some cartoon had come to life.
For me it was as if some dream had come to life. There were lots of weeks and months — maybe years — when raising his father and his aunt I thought those humans I was caring for would never learn how to make their own meals or drive their own cars or learn to love people who would love them back. How would they ever figure out how to have a career or make their way in the world? And when the universe trusted them with babies! How could they know what was at stake? But here we are — at that stage when you see snippets of a future in a human. You see character in those characters and you are grateful beyond any measure of words for the wordless moments when the birds take off and land and the sun is bouncing off the water and the warm air says “this is summer” and you are filled with such love you want to squeeze that teenage boy entirely too tight. Instead you high-five him as he walks over to his fellow sailors — all limbs loose and not exactly playing as a team. And if you are me, you are a bit tearful realizing for the messy things in this world you have this moment with this child who is the child of your child and while you may have thought success and blessings were measured differently they are not. And that seems enough to know this Sunday in Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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