Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pachyderm Playground

Two elephants at the 2010 Minnesota Renaissance festival

Any of you that have been following this blog for any length of time know that I have four Grandchildren. They range from ages 3 through 12. My daughter’s husband also has two girls, ages 16 and 18,  from his previous marriage and we consider them Grandchildren as well. They are all girls except for the 10 year old.
Now I love them all, there is no doubt about that. I would lay down my life for any of them and I strive to be a good Grand Dad. I hope they hear the lessons I teach them. Simple lessons about how to live a good life, taken right from the mistakes I made through the years. You know, the kids sit around your feet as I rock lazily in the wooden chair, the doilies ebb and flow with the rhythm of the movement. I speak, they quietly and intently listen to every word.
Then, in forty or fifty years, I’m dead and gone of course, and the story is told again to another Grand Child. The lesson was learned, heeded and found to be worthy of the passage of time. I’m dreaming now. But really, I’m trying to be this person without ego.
Earlier on in my adult life without children at home, I didn’t know how it would be to have Grandkids. Then when they started coming into my life, I had to learn from experience all over again. Just like not knowing how to be a parent, I didn’t know how to be a Grandpa, or as I am called, a Papa, (Poppa), either.
The first two were wonderful and served as the textbooks for those to come. I learned. But back in those days, there wasn’t much I did with them just one on one. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t far enough along on the healing journey. As far as living went for me at that time, I was an infant and just getting started.
It was when the third one came along that I had learned enough, healed enough, to take some risks. Lilly was the first one I watched, you know, babysat, just me and her. That started when she was a little older than one. We had a special bond. And it lasted and has carried forward to today.
One of Lilly’s loves is animals. All animals really. But she has this fascination with elephants. I don’t know where it came from, but she loves anything and everything elephant. It’s never hard to find her a gift as a stuffed elephant is always a good choice. She has them in every size from a tiny 1/4” miniature to a four foot behemoth that she can sit on and ride!
She has elephant necklaces and pictures and coloring books, stickers, DVD’s and CD music about elephants. She knows the difference between African and Asian elephants by the size of their ears. She draws pictures of them, too. The one below is my favorite. I want to make a bolt of fabric with this design and sell backpacks, tote bags, pajamas, socks, boxers, tank and soft crews for kids and whimsical adults. Maybe even some “Hanes For Her” type underwear with this blue elephant motif.
Lilly's now Famous elephant print

In my attempt to give all the Grandkids everything they ever mention they would want or dream of, I have taken Lilly to see real live elephants. There were none in the zoos here in Minnesota, and none in Milwaukee, Madison or Duluth. The closest was in the Chicago area, at Brookfield Zoo. Funny, when Mrs. Spadoman and I got married, we bought our first house in Brookfield, IL, not a mile from the famous Brookfield Zoo.
Of course we took the whole family and spent the day, but the big highlight for Lilly was to see a real live Pachyderm. We couldn’t get very close, though, and that day, they weren’t in a wandering mood. When you’re four years old, it might have been okay, but I know I had to get her to a place where she could see the elephants, touch them and possibly ride on one. After all, I was the Grandfather. I would be the one to give her this experience. One that she will remember and hold for the rest of her life.
We saw some elephants here and there at circuses, and I found pictures and articles on the internet. I’d save them and show Lilly after school. But it wasn’t quite right until I found out that at the Renaissance Festival, the one held every year in Minnesota, they had real live elephants and they offered rides on them.
I knew about this last year, but never made it to the festival. In fact, something about my very soul doesn’t like the Renaissance Festival. I can’t put my finger on it, but it may be the people that get into the whole renaissance thing just put me off. Of course this gracious beautiful soul with the gold wings has given me impetus to start a mind change.
I had to capture this Fairy as she floated by

We have a friend, actually, she is an old friend of my daughter Maggie. We have been in and out of touch with her since we moved away from Pine City in 1989. Thanks to Facebook, Anita is there, and I remembered from a year or so ago that she works or has something to do with the Renaissance Festival. One day, I saw her and mentioned that we wanted to take Lilly for an elephant ride. I asked her for verification that this exhibit existed.
Not only did she tell me that it would indeed be possible to get a ride on an elephant, but that she would send me tickets to get into the event. This festival is upwards of $20 bucks per adult for entry! I was so pleased to get invited with free tickets!

Looks like a happy kid
We tried to get to the festival throughout the month of September, but never put it together. I went to the web site and saw that the last weekend for the 2010 season was to be October 2nd and 3rd. I knew this was our last chance for this year. I didn’t want to disappoint Lilly again. But we were asked to travel to Green Bay and go to the Packers football game on Sunday with my Brother-in-Law. The Renaissance Festival is an hours drive in the other direction. Besides that, my daughter had to work Saturday and there was no one to be with the Grand kids.
Yes it is, a very happy kid!
Saturday was an unbelievable day as we got up early and drove to the festival with Lilly. We wandered there and rode the elephants., Not only did we ride them, but we managed a ride on a Llama and a war horse as well. Then, we traversed back towards Wisconsin and dropped Lilly off at her Aunt Jayne’s house. Her mother had already dropped the rest of the kids there earlier on her way to work. Good Ole Auntie Jayne came through and relieved us of our child care responsibility. We continued on to Green Bay and got a motel room in a small town about 30 miles away from Lambeau Field. We had driven eight hours on Saturday and were a mere 240 miles from home. We arrived in Green Bay on Sunday morning and attended the football game, then drove home after a bite to eat with Mrs. Spadoman’s brother and his son, our nephew, whom we haven’t seen in over 30 years. That’s another story in and of itself.
With the llama
And the Horse

So, the pictures are of Lilly and Mrs. Spadoman on the pachyderm and Lilly on the llama and the horse. By the way, these horses are used in a jousting contest later in the day. Maybe next year we will go and spend the day. With better planning, it just might work out. I just hope that if my maker takes me before then, I have filled the heart of a little girl with pleasant thoughts and dreams by taking her to visit an elephant. She climbed on the back of an African elephant, (she told me this as she saw the larger floppy ears and verified the fact with the handler), and touched him. His name is Gene.
A new crown for Lilly

For football fans, this sign says it all

A beautiful day and the stands full of people

Mrs. Spadoman with her brother and nephew

On the way to Green Bay, we needed a gas stop and a potty break. We got off the highway and went into the small town of Thorp, WI. We were familiar with Thorp, not only becaause we have traveled past it on many journeys, but because a good friend recently married and her husband is from Thorp. Happeed to be that the Thorp Annual Pumpkin Festival was in full swing. We stopped by and strolled for a while before we continued our drive to Green Bay. There were pumpkins all right. This 587 pound beauty, that has Mrs. Spadoman smitten, took the Grand Prize!
Can you imagine carving this one?

Yours truly in Thorp

We had a truly marvelous weekend both at the Renaissance Festival with the elephants, our mini visit of Thorp and the reunion with family at Lambeau Field. Thanks for allowing me to share it with you.



Mel said...

587 pounds?!

Holy moly.....

I have to say I laughed when I saw the 'fairy'. NOT that you're fixated with 'em. LOL

The photos, sir--are awesome.
Every one of 'em.

But I think my favorite was the Lillyphants. They're priceless and oughta become fabric. Cuter than cute--almost as cute as the kiddo who drew them for you.

Grandkids are something else. I haven't figured out what the deal is, but I'm not knocking it AT all.

k....I think it's someone to play with. *laughing* You gotta know I'm serious when I say that about me.
I mean, I don't even fuss about sharing my toys! Whatzupwiththat?! LOL

I hit the Rennaissance Festival for two years running when I was in northern Iowa.....and it's now been 20 years since I've been back. Dang....maybe I oughta change that fact, huh?
AND I could pet a llama! :-D

mig said...

Wow! what an epic day!
Well done for not letting lovely Lily down and getting to see the brother in law and family as well.

susan said...

What a wonderful day and I'm so glad you got to see the elephants up close. What a neat thing it would be to catch a ride on one.

I think you're handling the granddad thing just fine.

This Eclectic Life said...

Joe, what a wonderful post. You've captured the whole spirit of the "grandfather" thing. Indeed, you filled Miss Lilly's heart with pleasant thoughts.
I LOVE her picture. I'm a whimsical adult who would wear that pattern :-). Let me know when the products are ready for delivery!

Durward Discussion said...

That was a great story and I know just how Lily feels about elephants. More than 60 years ago, I bought one. You might enjoy that story =""

Durward Discussion said...

Try that again:

Buying The Elephant

Anonymous said...

Lovely story about the elephant riding. I found you via This Eclectic Life.