Gigi Camp- Hawaiian Style!

Someone asked a celebrity what the best part of being a grandparent was and he said the fact he no longer had to listen to his friends tell him how great it was. I get it! I was one of the first people of my social circle to become a grandparent, and extolled the virtues of grandparenthood. Now, a couple more have followed suit, so I’m not in the grandma club alone.

I was trying to think of why being a grandparent is so much more joyful than being a parent was. It’s not that I don’t have hopes, dreams and aspirations for my grandchildren, it’s just that there isn’t as much attachment to the outcome as when I was a parent. With our own children, there’s so much invested in their upbringing- from trying to improve on our own experiences growing up, to trying to accomplish feats and accomplishments (through our children) we may not have realized- that it’s a very complicated relationship. It’s also one fraught with constant fear.

They say when you have a child, it’s like having your heart existing outside of your body. With grandchildren, it’s kind of like their heart is part of your own heart, so there’s less separation and anxiety. It’s just a much sweeter, purer and less complicated love. Honestly, I can’t explain it adequately. It just needs to be experienced.

Phoenix eating chicken and rice. I tried to give him a tattoo for Gigi Camp (you can see the remants on his arm) but he wasn’t having it.

I’m watching The Last Movie Stars on HBO Max and Joanne Woodward explained having grandchildren as, when you have grandchildren, you know the only thing you have to do that day is to listen to them, because there won’t be endless opportunities. As a mother, I often felt I was abandoning my ambition and career opportunity by staying home with the kids. And, when I worked, there was always the fear of missing milestones in their lives. You are constantly told as a parent: “they’re only young once”, so any time spent away from them seems like a sin. There is always guilt, one way or the other, and with grandchildren, there’s just sweet surrender. And indulgence.

The Last Movies Stars was great, by the way. I highly recommend it. I am reading Bittersweet for my Book Club. It’s interesting, written by Susan Cain, the author of Quiet (about introverts), but a little heavy reading for the Summer. We are meeting at the end of the month for a meeting at my house. I am already contemplating what Bittersweet Foods to serve.

We returned from Hawaii and I was immediately thrown into “Gigi” mode, as Christopher and Liam were at our house. He and his wife Courtney moved from Steamboat Springs to Tallahassee and they were in Miami to pick up stuff they had left in storage (and at my house). So, I got to babysit Liam for about a half a day, while they picked up the U-Haul in Vero Beach.

Bye bye!

Liam and I did a modified Gigi Camp. We played, swam in the pool, I gave him a bath, dressed him in his Hawaiian shirt and we listened to Hawaiian music. I also let him color and when the crayon hit the paper and made a mark, he squealed in delight. I think he may be a budding artist! Alas, they’re gone now but I’m planning a trip to Tallahassee in the Fall, when it’s cooler.

Wyatt and I also did Gigi Camp, starting the next Monday. The Shark Week Shirt and Hawaiian shirt I got him in Hawaii were both too small. He’s six, but wearing size eight! Of course our theme was Hawaii. I showed him a map of the Hawaiian Islands and the four islands Zeke and I had visited. We learned Hawaiian words, listened to Hawaiian songs, watched Hawaiian movies and, of course, made Hawaiian food.

The first word I taught Wyatt was the most Hawaiian of words- Aloha, which means Hello, Goodbye and Love. It literally translates to “Breath of Life”; it means living in the present and treating each other, and nature, with love and respect. Aloha means living in harmony and they talked a lot about the “Aloha Spirit” in Hawaii and how they treat everyone as Ohana (family). Our bus driver Denis, on the Big Island, greeted us each morning with “Hello cousins, brudah, sister, antie, uncles.” It’s hard to argue with a culture whose philosophy is “Hang Loose” (with pinkie and thumb extended). Quite different than Miami!

I started Wyatt off with Pancakes, served with Coconut Syrup and Ube spread, two breakfast items we encountered in Hawaii. He loved this and had it every day for breakfast for the rest of Gigi Camp. We made a mold for a volcano kit I’d bought and I told him how Bop and I visited the Volcano National Park in Hawaii, where there’s still an active volcano (Kilauea). The first night we made Loco Moco (normally a breakfast item) for dinner and it was actually a clue that night on Jeopardy. I got it!

Tuesday was a rainy day so we went to the library, to the movies and Wyatt painted his volcano. Dinner was a Pupu Platter, which I figured any six-year old would appreciate, if for no other reason the name. While Pupu (appetizer) Platters normally consist of Egg Rolls, Spareribs and other (often fried) items, our had Grilled Chicken Sausage and Pineapple Skewers, Grilled Shishito Peppers, Steamed Shrimp Dumplings and Meatballs with Teriyaki. It was all delicious and Wyatt loved it. I taught him two new words- Ono for delicious and Ohana for family. We wore tags identifying ourself as Tutu (Grandma) and Keike (Child).

Wednesday was a big day because Wyatt’s cousin Gracie (only 2 weeks older) was coming over. We went for a walk, collected plumeria flowers and made a lei to give Gracie as an honorary member of Gigi Camp. Gracie came over, got a tattoo, and went swimming. As the grand finale, they erupted the volcano (apparently a disappointment to Wyatt) and made their own pizza for dinner. I made a Hawaiian Pizza– pineapple and ham- which they bravely tried but didn’t like. They did enjoy their own, plain cheese pizzas.

The last day of Gigi Camp went out with a bang! We had a picnic at Matheson Hammock (Chicken Salad Sandwich for me, leftover Pizza for Wyatt), Wyatt climbed trees, we then visited Fairchild Tropical Garden and the Lego exhibit. We came home, went swimming, where Wyatt insisted I get my hair wet (I’m not sure why, but he said it was more fun) and then we met Zeke, Emma and Gui for dinner. Wyatt ordered a Shirley Temple with extra cherries and got a California Roll. His Mom picked him up and I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was only four days, so I owe Wyatt a couple more.

The first year I attempted Gigi Camp, Wyatt was about three and I agreed to take him for a whole week. I way overestimated my patience and stamina for that age! After that, his Mom and I decided I would take him for one day, per years he was. Whenever I got tired during this Gigi Camp, I reminded myself he’s only six once and I’m not getting any younger. I’m also sure when he’s 14, he’s probably not going to want to spend two weeks with his Gigi, so I have to take advantage while he’s still excited to be with me.

In Hawaii, they have a beautiful tradition when someone dies of scattering the ashes at sea and then laying flower leis into the water, that float away. We saw this happen on our way to the North Shore in Oahu. I’m now re-thinking my plans for being buried vs. cremated. On the plus side, it’s cheaper and I would take up less space. On the minus side, there would be no place my family could come visit me. Not that I care, but they might. Maybe scatter my ashes in the water and plant a tree? Ashes to ashes…

Life is fleeting, it is beautiful and it’s bittersweet. And they’re only young once (I guess there is some kind of Grandma Guilt!), so we need to savor these moments while we can.

Last night in my dreams, I saw your face again, We were there in the sun, On a white, sandy beach of Hawaii.

White Sandy Beach of Hawaii by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (Iz)

Up Next: Turkey Burger with a Bang

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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