Yesterday was Grandma and Grandpa Day.
Hallmark urges you to celebrate Grandparents' Day on Sunday, September 11. I don't know how long it's been a Hallmark, event, but we've been celebrating Grandma and Grandpa Day" in our house since about the year 2004.
We have 8 grandchildren. Our first celebration of this event was really just "Grandpa" Day. Grandpa wanted to introduce our 3 granddaughters to the candy store in Stillwater, Minnesota. The candy store is officially named "Tremblay's Sweet Shop," and they make and sell wonderful fudge, penuche, nut brittles, salt water taffy, assorted gummy worms, Swedish coins, licorice whips, etc., etc.
You walk into Tremblay's and pick up a basket and start making your way around the perimeter of the store picking out one or two sweets from each of the candy bins, ending up at the counter where the wonderful chocolates, truffles and even sugar-free delicacies are housed under glass. What kid wouldn't love helping himself to all of the candy he could eat (and then being sent home to Mom and Dad!). Needless to say, the girls loved the first trip and a tradition was born.
The next year, Grandma was added to the mix, as were a couple of grandsons. I think Grandpa realized that he was never going to be able to handle these kids on his own and so Grandma was brought along to help. At that time, we had a van and we all fit in one car.
One of our grandchildren, Danny, has special needs and is confined to a wheelchair. While he can't walk or talk, he's still a typical 16 year old who loves to have fun and "hang out" with his siblings and cousins and vicariously enjoy all that they do. He also loves candy just like the other kids. The first year that Danny came with us, we visited Stillwater, walked along the river, ate lunch at an outdoor restaurant (yes, there were bees and mosquitoes and flies!) and then visited Tremblay's.
As the years passed, a few more grandchildren were added to the mix and we tried different venues: the zoo, bowling, miniature golfing, etc. Each year, it got a bit harder to decide on a spot that would allow Danny full participation also. Not wanting to exclude him from this special day, we finally made the decision to return to the original Grandma and Grandpa Day agenda: visit a park in Stillwater that has rock climbing walls and other enticements for the kids, take a walk along the St. Croix River in the heart of town, visit Tremblay's and then have lunch somewhere. We wanted the kids to grow up with memories of Grandma and Grandpa Day being the day they got to go to the candy store in Stillwater, get all of the candy they wanted, and spend the day with their cousins.
We have taken the kids to a number of restaurants over the years, but about 3 years ago, we discovered the Red Robin in Shoreview and the kids loved it. Burgers as big as their heads, free balloons when they leave and a friendly staff. Each year, the waitstaff asks us what we are celebrating and when they learn of our tradition, we are treated to free desserts or onion rings, and always smiles and congratulations .. I think secretly they are congratulating two old folks like us on making it through the day with 8 hyper enthusiastic kids!
We now have 8 grandchildren, so we have to take 2 vehicles .. girls in one with Grandma, boys in the other with Grandpa. Grandpa makes the boys listen to the Oldies Station ('50s music!), while Grandma lets the girls pick out the station and has graduated from Disney Radio to 101.3 and was introduced to Lil Wayne and Katy Perry this year.
Danny is in a wheelchair and this year we borrowed his dad's adapted van so that we could move him in and out easily without Grandma and Grandpa having to strain their backs. What a joy it was to see Danny's siblings quickly start tying down the chair after he was loaded into the van. We stood by while the "Daniel crew" managed the work for us. Heartwarming to see them take such good care of their brother.
While this day might be fun for the kids, it is pure heaven for us. We are rewarded each year with the thank yous and the smiles and the funny sayings that the kids entertain us with. This year, our 8 year old, Nathan, whose love of money drives his days, quickly ate his lunch and then reported to us: "If you need me, I'll be around looking for pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters." He then proceeded to "case the restaurant" in hopes that patrons in a hurry might have dropped some loose change as they slid out of their booths. At least, I hope that's what he was doing and not taking the waitstaff's tips off the tables ... that thought never occurred to me until just now!
Two years ago, after the day ended, we returned to our house to wait for the parents to come and retrieve their children. Several of the kids entertained themselves in the computer room while they waited. Several hours after they left, Ed noticed a post-it note pinned to the bulletin board that hadn't been there in the morning. If you wonder why we do it, the post-it note says it all.