This week I am lucky in the best way possible. My daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, 5-year-old Hudson and 7-month-old Casey, are visiting for a few days. This might not seem like a big deal to most grandparents. But to me it is. You see, these special people live and make their living at the top end of Baffin Island in the village of Pond Inlet. There are no roads between here and there – just complicated, expensive flights.
As a result, we only see them every few years, although we do Skype.
I’m overjoyed to see them all, of course. But the real highlight for me is spending time with my grandson Hudson, who is finally at the age where we can have conversations and learn about each other.
There is lot to learn too. In his five years on this planet, Hudson has seen narwhals, caribou, seals, Arctic fox and hares, ptarmigan and even his favourite animal, the polar bear – thankfully, at safe distances. Not in books, not in zoos, but in real life in the environment in which they belong. Hudson also goes to a school where they speak Inuktitut, so he is learning that language too. In fact, he recited their alphabet to me yesterday afternoon in a pretty little song. And, along with his parents, he has gone snowmobiling, ATVing and camping on the wild arctic landscape. That’s quite an outdoors resume.
He just might be the most interesting 5-year-old I’ve ever met, though admittedly, I’m partial.
I’m not nearly as fascinating.
Yet, I wanted to spend time with him in a special way that we both might look back on fondly. So, I asked if he would like to paint a decoy that I carved. And, just to sweeten the pot, I told him he could take it home when he is done.
He was thrilled at the prospect. Hudson is a doer. And what kindergarten kid doesn’t love painting?
There’s more to it though. Decoys are a part of his heritage. They are a constant sight in the homes of people on both sides of his family – both for use in hunting and for decoration.
So, between painting one and telling knock-knock jokes, singing songs, playing fetch with the dog, and eating delicious snacks, Hudson and I are bonding.
As I write this, that decoy is halfway done. The best part is that when Hudson woke up this morning, the first thing he asked was if we could continue working on it. It was not a difficult question to answer.
This is the most important thing I have done in a long time. I’m spending time with a boy who will one day grow into a man. And one day, if I am lucky, he will remember this experience every time he walks past that decoy. He might even realize that a decoy is more than just a work of folk art.
He might come to understand that it represents a respect for nature, a fondness for traditions and a grandfather’s love. He might appreciate it as a thing with a story, or, better yet, as the gift that started of a lifelong hobby.
But mostly, that little Bufflehead – or whatever it turns out to be – will be the sparks that fans the flame of a good memory. I’m hoping every time the boy looks at it, he’ll smile and think of his “oompa.”
I won’t need to see it to smile. I’ll never forget it.