My grandfather was born on the 4th of July 96 years ago. I gave him the name Gomper, which the story goes was my version of Grandpa when I was learning to talk. My other grandfathers would become Grandpa, but he was always to be Gomper. Since I was the first grandchild all the others would learn to call him Gomper as well.
Growing up I would spend lots of time with my Gomper, but one of my favorite places to spend time with him was at The Cabin . The Cabin was on Pike Bay of Cass Lake in Minnesota. Every year my Granny and Gomper would travel over 600 miles from Chicago to the Cabin for vacation. We would get up at the crack of dawn, get in to the fully loaded car and go off on our annual road trip. My poor grandparents were trapped in a car for nearly 12 hours traveling 2 lane roads with a small child, but they did not mind.
My Granny would spend weeks planning the trip and I had a tartan red plaid bag filled with the goodies for the trip. These were not like today’s goodies DVD players where you sat in the back seat oblivious to the surroundings. Not these were wonderful games that my Granny put together for us all to play. She would save the cards that stockings came wrapped around and make all sorts of entertainment. We had the list of 50 states and each of names at top and we would try to find the most different state license plates. Then there were the alphabet cards, and my grandparents would pick a topic and we needed to find things in the topic for each letter of the alphabet. My favorite version of these was to find a world that started with each letter of the alphabet on the billboards. Billboards in those days were locally done and lots of fun, but they were and also disappearing because of Lady Bird Johnson’s highway beautification project. Granny was always Gomper’s scribe for those games, but he played along and would sacrifice a plate or two to ensure I was always a winner.
Granny did not drive, so Gomper drove the whole distance. We would plan lunch at roadside picnic area. We always had friend chicken and either ice tea or Doctor pepper. Then after lunch Gomper would nap and I would run off excess energy. I was to get rid of that energy, but be quiet so Gomper could sleep, that was a hard task for me.
After lunch I would stand in front of the AC vent in the car looking out the window in the distance trying not to get car sick. I was prone to carsickness in the best of circumstances, getting in the car after lunch I was doomed. But Gomper he didn’t mind when I said it was time to stop. He never complained. Nope he’d pull over, and get out with me and then once I was done throwing up as the pathetic little girl I was on the the 2nd or 3rd go round, Granny would wipe my face with the damp wash rag and back in the car we’d go. Heading north to the cabin.
Another pastime for us was singing. My Gomper had this wondrous voice and I can almost hear it. I on the other hand am forbidden by my husband to have car concerts when traveling by myself; I really can’t carry even a bad tune. We would sing lots of rounds Granny, Gomper and I each taking a different starting time on “Row Row Row your Boat” and “Frère Jacques”. We also sang Sunday School songs, my favorite was “Found a Peanut” I can close my eyes and can see me rocking to the song, singing, having no idea I was probably like chalk on their ears.
Once we got to the cabin there are thousands of other wonderful memories, but tonight my I am reminiscing about the night of 4th of July. Granny would make a cake in the little oven and after dinner we would head down to the lake. Granny and Gomper would sit in lawn chairs and I would sit on the end of the dock dipping my toes in the lake with minnows nibbling away. The cabin sat on the East side of the lake and we would watch the sun set over the town of Cass Lake on the West sided of the lake. After that there were fireworks. I sat there at The Cabin, watching fireworks celebrating the nation’s birthday and my Gomper’s birthday. I was really too young to understand our nation’s history, but birthdays I understood. The USA was pretty big in not real easy for a small child to grasp, but I sure did understand celebrating Gomper’s birthday and fireworks to celebrate him was just fine with me.
My Gomper has since passed away, but each 4th of July there is a little tug at my heart for all the wonderful memories of my times with him. Happy Birthday Gomper!