Let's take a walk through a brand new day.
Grandmothers are special people. Some are extra special. Then, there are grandmothers that will stop at nothing to achieve an end goal.
Anne Pack, a retired educator, is a full-time Granne, to 5 young boys ages 6-11 who are “all boy all the time”. As she prepared for summer activities with the boys, Anne had a burning desire to start a Cousins Book Club to keep academics in the forefront in a fun way. At lunch one day, she explored the idea with the boys and got eye rolls and exclamations of “Granne, NO!”. Undeterred, Anne came up with a plan. She had recently read a book and true story about a boy and a dog who hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The book just happened to be my book, Northbounders: 2,186 Miles of Friendship. Anne knew the boys would love the story but had to find a way to capture their interest.
Anne contacted me and requested a personally inscribed book for each boy. When she presented the books to them one day at lunch, she was inundated with questions like, “Does she know us?” “How did you get her to sign these, Granne?” “How does she know our names, Granne?” The answer remained shrouded in mystery among the five cousins.
Their interest about the book was peaked and they quickly named themselves the “Cousin Crew Book Club.” All dog lovers, the book had the boys’ attention when they realized the story was being told from the dog’s point of view. A few pages in and they were hooked. Little did they know that as they followed Copper (the dog) and Blast (the hiker) through 14 states and all kinds of adventures, that they were learning history, geography, math, science, and lots of new vocabulary.
The boys, who had once dreaded the idea of a book club, would call Granne and say, “Don’t forget to bring the books to the beach!” “Hey, we haven’t read about Copper today!” “Can I go ahead and read the next chapter? I won’t tell the others what happened.”
Naturally, the boys began dreaming of their own possible adventure of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Little did they know that Granne already had plans for that. The boys gave each other Trail Names, made Trail Mix, read and discussed the book and looked forward to the culminating activity with Granne.
Finally, on a hot July day, the five cousins donned their new Appalachian Trail t-shirts, packed their picnic lunch, and drove with Granne to Amicalola Falls State Park where AT hikers begin their journey on the trek from Georgia to Maine. Known only by their “trail names” for the day, the boys had many questions about the AT, generated from the book. The boys had learned to “pack out what they packed in” to be sure to “Leave No Trace” from their picnic. The trail had come to life and they were hiking on the very trail they had read about for 8 weeks. Enduring the heat of the day was all a part of the adventure.
What began with an eye roll and protest in June became the grand adventure and first of many bonding experiences of the summer for 5 young boys in the Cousin Crew Book Club. A quite unexpected twist was that their friends began begging to become honorary cousins just to get a book and be a part of the adventure!
The best part for Granne was when the Cousin Crew Book Club began asking, “What are we reading next?”
Moral of the story: Never underestimate the power of a Grandmother…especially if she is a former educator.
(Anne Pack is a highly respected retired teacher and counselor. She is known as Granne but her new Trail Name given to her by her boys is “Pickles” and that is another story.)
(Pictures and story shared with permission)