As you read this, my wife and I will just be returning from our annual trip to New Hampshire with two of our grandsons. You’ll be able to pick us out -- we are the ones smiling while we limp and desperately gasp for breath.
To be accurate, this was the eighth straight year we have taken 9-year-old grandson Will (did I mention his name is William?) up to the North Conway area to visit StoryLand and all the other great attractions for kids up north. It is the second year his younger brother Sammy has been old enough to make the trip, and we are looking forward to adding our youngest grandson Tommy next year (our granddaughters live some distance away, so we are still working on a plan for them). That’s assuming we are still mobile at that time, of course.
Will is an old pro at this now, and handled the pre-trip anticipation with ease. Sammy? Not so much. He has a conceptual problem with time, as do most 3-year-olds. When you tell him the trip is coming up in a few months, you might as well be talking about an eternity as far as he is concerned.
“Are we going to StoryLand today?” that hopeful little voice has asked us virtually every time he has seen us since last summer (and he sees us a lot). We tried each time to explain that it was still a bit into the future, but stress how much fun we would have when we did go. Sammy pretty much heard nothing after “not yet”, and the look of disappointment was like a constant dagger through our hearts each time.
When it was only three days away, we figured he would be happy and thrilled the time was so near. Silly us -- when we told him it was three days away, he looked at us like we had just postponed Christmas by six months.
“Three whole days?” he asked, his voice cracking a bit. We worked intensely to change the subject. We won’t make that mistake again.
As grandparents, it is so wonderful to be able to have this tradition with our grandkids. My grandparents took me to New Hampshire and StoryLand when I was just a boy, and the memories are among the fondest of my childhood.
Of course, they include the time my younger brother managed to drive one of the self-propelled “antique cars” off the rail and up a nearby hill, making it necessary for the man running the ride to wildly chase after it. That was just before he went on the slow-moving boat ride and steered his ship head-first into the side of a bridge, then urged my younger sister riding with him to save herself and jump into the knee-deep water.
More than the rides and attractions have changed since I was a kid. I remember one of the biggest deals was begging my grandmother for quarters to put in the vibrating bed inside the motel where we were staying. That was all the rage back then, and I was sure we would soon see them in every home in America.
The kids love the natural beauty of the area, much as I did when I was younger. We can’t show them the “Old Man of the Mountain” anymore, since it disappeared a few years back. But we make many stops along the Kancamagus Highway, watching the water flow over the rocks and letting the kids climb out onto them. At least, a little bit -- I have to keep Sammy within reasonable reach.
A lot of our time is spent at a nearby water park, and where the boys have a blast. Will loves the water slides, which involves several flights of stairs that have to be climbed for each trip. Until they get an elevator, he does many of those solo. Grandpa prefers the wave pool.
We tell ourselves these annual trips are for the kids, but in truth they are for us. We love spend timing with the boys, and know the time when they want to be spending days with their old grandparents are limited.
So the limping and the soreness today is a small price to pay for the best time we have all year.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.