I watched the elderly couple park their small car in a layby and get out, followed by what appeared to be their three grandchildren. I felt a particular empathy with them as I too am a grandfather, but then out of nowhere, a nagging question began to irritate my mind – Why was this family outing incomplete? Why was the middle tier missing? Where in heaven’s name were the parents?

Parking my own faithful jalopy nearby, I sat and watched with increasing amazement as two pairs of binoculars were taken out of the car along with a fair-sized picnic basket and a camera. My eyes followed the happy group until they disappeared into the pines, while I sat thinking about absent parents. Perhaps they were using the weekend to catch up on corporate fatigue or maybe they were too absorbed in their professional career to realise what they were missing. At the end of it all, I felt sorry for them and life’s priorities, for in my reckoning this missed opportunity would have enriched their life with golden memories.

Travelling through time, I saw a child following his grandparent up the mountain trail and through the dense stand of pines growing in the rear of their summer home in the hills. The boy carried a small Kodak box camera and a pair of binoculars that didn’t work. These treks were worth years of education in a classroom, as he imbibed information on flora and fauna, the sanctity of nature’s environment and geography. This little boy was none other than I and this daily exposure to nature was what prompted me, at a later stage to enrich my children and grandchildren with the same experience. Success in this endeavour can perhaps be measured through love of animals and plants that my family passionately displays as they go through their daily lives.

Recently, my grandson asked me a simple question regarding volcanoes. Ignoring warning looks from my better half, I set about creating a model for the little one, out of clay and paints. As expected, the project ‘somehow’ began to grow in magnitude and I was soon at my work bench converting the miniature volcanic cone into a mountain with glowing magma flowing down the sides at the touch of a switch and mock paper flames erupting from the crater with the help of a tiny fan and LEDs. In strict accordance with my wife’s predictions, the volcano model isn’t finished yet, as more and more features are added to it on a regular basis. This activity has shifted the project from my grandson’s propriety to mine – all flowing from a curiosity inspired simple question put to me by a nine year old boy.

My friends often tell me that there is a crazy streak in our family genes that impels us not to sit indoors. These good folk say this with reference to our passion for an activity known as ‘cooking out’. The phenomenon usually manifests itself on weekends and holidays and the destination is decided on the drop of a hat. Small tents and camp cooking gear is packed into vehicles, which rendezvous at a designated point. Cookouts normally last until sundown and infuse new energy in all concerned for the work days that follow. Most significantly, they bring the entire family together, strengthen bonding and respect for one another and provide healthy recreation to one and all. I have of late, even pulled a fast one on my critics and took them along on our excursions as guests. This was good medicine as these individuals have reportedly become avid ‘cookout fans’ themselves.

But back to the wonderful sight that inspired this week’s piece. My advice to all parents busy in building their careers is not to relegate or postpone the fun in parenting, lest they miss the windows of opportunity that life offers them to spend quality time with their offspring in an outdoor setting. For it is these moments of happiness that will one day become treasures, to be recalled and savored as companions in dreary lonesome evenings.