My wife and I have six grandchildren with our oldest having been born in 2014 and our youngest having been born in 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. Two of them live in town and the other four live on the west coast. My wife and I both travel out to visit them on the west coast as much as we can but even so, it often translates into only two or three times a year, sadly less since the start of the pandemic. Living less than five miles apart, we obviously get to see our two in town grandchildren much more frequently.
One way that we have gotten to see our granddaughter, born in 2015, grow over the years is witnessing her play at the Children’s Museum of Memphis (CMOM.com). CMOM opened in 1987, the year her daddy was born, and he went there a number of times growing up. Sadly, those images are fading from my memory as his visits there were long before we had cell phones with built-in cameras that we could snap away taking photos. But obviously that is not the case with his daughter.
Our earliest photo of her at CMOM was from when she was just about 13 months old doing some shopping in the little grocery store, they have. Over the years, this would be a frequent stop attracted by the small shopping carts there and the real cash registers where she could check out her own play groceries.
After shopping at the grocery store, she could then go into the play kitchen to cook up something delicious.
Another regular favorite was this colored peg board, akin to a Lite-Brite on steroids.
She also loved to go inside the mirrored disco room where she could twirl and dance away to the music.
Over the first few years, we would often spend a good bit of time in the 4 and Under area where there was no competition with older kids.
One of her most favorite activities was to get on this seesaw and go up and down for a really long time. If no one else was around to take the other end, I would kneel down and push that seat down with my hands, over and over. She thrilled doing this.
In her second year at CMOM, when the weather was warm enough, she would also delight in playing in their outdoor area. They had an even bigger seesaw…
…and a fun merry-go-round.
But as always, more shopping!
Towards the end of that year, the city’s more than 100-year-old carousel which had been restored to its former glory was installed and that too became a regular feature of our visit.
While all of her cousins lived on the west coast, whenever they came to town, CMOM was a must destination for everyone.
In her third year of visiting, I really began to see her growing up as she played on the seesaw…
…in the kitchen…
…and on the carousel.
Returning to so many of the same play features, it was if I had planted a tree and each year snapped a photograph to compare how much growth had occurred.
And what made our visits even more frequent was by this time, I was retired from full-time work and so the two of us could go as often as we wanted to.
In her fourth year, not surprisingly, we did many of the same things. On the carousel alone, I had the making of a montage of her aging.
But then she would surprise me and do something completely different like giving this guy an up-close dental exam.
Of course, we all know what happened in 2020. With the pandemic and with no vaccines available, we didn’t go to CMOM a single time.
Then in March of 2021, we made our first visit, pulling down her mask just long enough to capture her smile.
We made more visits throughout the year and at one point she climbed the very same labrynth skyscraper that her daddy had climbed up when he was about her age.
And she made her debut on the upgraded stage that year as well.
That fall, she started first grade which might have reduced our visits. But actually, since her school was not too far from CMOM, I could pick her up after school around three and we could run over and play until closing time at five.
This year when her cousins again came in town after a pandemic-delayed visit, naturally CMOM was a destination.
Then in August, I had the most wonderful surprise when I received pictures of her little brother, almost two, at CMOM.
There he was shopping in the same grocery store…
…and playing at the very same kitchen counter, right across from big sissy.
Although I missed this visit, I’m sure big sister was showing him the ropes and it brought a small tear to my eye to compare that first shopping picture with hers now.
Since that first visit in August, CMOM has become a regular weekend destination for my son’s family and with each photo they share from their visit, I reminisce about that same play activity during trips there with our granddaughter. A couple of months into their visits, my wife and I got a chance to take the two of them to CMOM. It was sheer delight for me to see that my granddaughter would no longer have to rely on someone else to accompany her on the seesaw she had ridden on for so many years. Now she had her little brother to gleefully enjoy it with her.
Our granddaughter will turn eight early in 2023 and it is nice to reflect that I have witnessed a lot of her growth over the years at CMOM. And now with her little brother starting to make CMOM one of his frequent play locations, I’ll be able to start the process all over again with him. While at the same time witnessing our granddaughter continue her CMOM growth tree.