When the grandchildren come to visit, you can hardly make a better investment than the purchase of a hammock.  For those of us raised in countries settled by Europeans, the hammock is exotic.  It seems insubstantial and a little scary. How can you trust such a thing to hold you up?  But there is the allure of comfort and the gentle swaying motion that take us back to the womb, or back to the days when we lived in trees.  In a hammock, you can relax with green leaves overhead, the gentle brush of a breeze on the skin.  Mosquitoes.

Our long summer in Nova Scotia this year allowed my son’s family the opportunity to squeeze in a visit.  Their two children are four and one now, so the trip from Portland, Oregon would have been trying, even without the missed connection in Toronto.  After a very long day, they rolled into the Halifax airport at 10 PM, sans luggage or car seats.  Fortunately, the airport is quite prepared for such eventualities.  They brought out a couple of car seats and we were on our way.  The luggage arrived at our house the following morning, before the family was awake.

For someone who takes more interest in documentaries and non-fiction books to cartoons and story books, Lucas has a lively imagination.  Long before we hit the hammock, we had introduced me to some of the stick hippos to be found in our field.  They were numerous, and some of them seemed to be thirsty.  So, we wandered down to the stream that borders our property to let them drink.

His little sister is less interested in hippos than the prospect of missing out on some activity her brother has taken on. Zooey’s language is limited, but she has an infectious smile and a refreshing, big “yes” in her vocabulary.  Like the clever little face recognition function built into my camera, Zooey’s neurons light up when her favorite people come into focus.

As the week progressed, the pattern of our visit sorted itself out.  Eating and running around, bath time and sleeping.  I joined their family for a visit to a private zoo on what used to be a farm.  After that adventure, I retired from the daily outings to concentrate on cooking.  Even with our full size Volvo, three adults and two car seats make for a tight squeeze.

A highlight of their visit was a trip to Ross farm, a “living history” farm where one can learn about blacksmithing, oak barrel construction and milking a cow.  The cow captivated young Lucas like nothing else on the trip.  If he had to do it every day as a chore, I suspect the magic would wear off fast, but squeezing hot milk from a large bovine animal made his day.

At one time, there were twelve boys and one girl growing up in the Stewart House.  The twelve boys slept in the very room were I am typing these words.  It was called the “dormitory.”  The wooden pegs where the boys would hang their clothes are still there.

One year, the contagion of diptheria spread through the village like wildfire.  Four of the boys succumbed to the disease within a few days, but my wife’s great grandfather asked for a pickle.  Thinking he was out of his mind with fever, his mother consented.  The acid in the pickle broke through the phlegm that was choking his swollen throat.  Charles Stewart lived to sire his own children, and the old farmhouse stayed in the family.

With the exception of one very wet day, the weather gods cooperated with my son’s visit.  And when the time came to pack up, most of the scattered toys reappeared from places they had been scattered.  Some had been camouflaged by the floral pattern in the rug.

We made our way back to the airport, tucked into lunch at Tim Horton’s, a Canadian institution, and said our goodbyes.  A good time was had by all.  The sticks and the hammock will be here waiting, next time they come.  In the meantime, you never can tell when a hippo will come in handy.