Tales from the Cabin
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Cool Cabin Grandma

Combining two loves: the cabin & the grandkids
By Christy Heitger-Ewing
Published: October 7, 2011
QUALITY TIME – Grandma (Rozella) Heitger and grandson Kyler swinging lakeside near her Michigan cabin.
Certain women are born to be mothers. These sweet-spirited gals have a natural instinct to hug, react swiftly when a child gets a boo-boo by offering magical kisses and a promise that all will be okay, and have mastered the fine art of gently saying “no.”
    And then there are those women who are born to be grandmothers. These kind-hearted women have a grandmother’s instinct to spoil, react swiftly when a child gets a boo-boo by offering tasty treats and a promise of a new toy, and have mastered the fine art of whipping up a batch of Christmas cookies in 5 minutes flat.
    Finally, there’s a special breed of women who are born to be “Cabin Grandmas.” These hosting warriors of the vacation-home realm have a natural instinct to play hard, react swiftly when a child gets a boo-boo by offering steaming cocoa and a promise of an extra long snowmobile ride, and have mastered the fine art of assembling a gingerbread house without sighing, swearing, or crying.
    If ever a woman was born to be a Cabin Grandma, it’s my mom. She equally adores both the cabin and her five grandchildren. Cabin Grandma does all jobs with gusto, whether it’s packing a four-star boat picnic, playing games in a makeshift tent, depleting Walmart of its inflatable water-toy inventory, or taking the better part of an afternoon to manually blow up said inflatables.
    In the winter, Mom gleefully gets down on all fours to climb through snow forts; she’s the first to challenge the kids to a snow-angel-making contest; and she’ll even don ice skates at the grandkids’ request, despite surviving a dental emergency in college stemming from an ice skating disaster.
    Although my mom is familiar with the word “no,” I don’t think she’s ever used it at the cabin with the grandkids. Which explains why I’ve seen her play 14 straight games of Crazy Eights. And why nearly every square inch of the cabin’s dining room floor is covered in train tracks. And why the freezer door barely shuts because it’s brimming with every flavor of ice cream known to man.
    A good Cabin Grandma understands the importance of establishing cabin traditions. For instance, whenever the grandkids visit for the holidays, each one (remember, there are five) gets to choose a dessert from grandma’s recipe book – a book that spans generations. Mom makes all five desserts, from rich double-chocolate fudge squares to colorfully sprinkled sugar cookies covered with gooey, inch-thick frosting. Trust me when I say that nobody goes hungry at the cabin in December.
    Mom also engages in the usual summer cabin activities with her grandchildren. She swings in the hammock, plays ball by the lake, baits the fishing hook, hunts for smooth skipping stones, fixes mouth-watering s’mores, and gives nightly backrubs as the munchkins drift to sleep.
    A true Cabin Grandma, however, steps it up a notch. Or in my mom’s case, she “jumps” it up a notch just to prove she’s as nimble as a teenager and as silly as a 6-year-old. Two summers ago, northern Michigan experienced a snap of chilly weather. Even the young kids, who typically have a skewed air-temperature gauge, were complaining of the cold.
    One evening my mom and several of her grandkids had just returned from a sunset boat ride when my niece Hannah announced that she wanted to swim. She begged her dad and me to get in with her but we were shivering, bundled, and, well, chicken. Dejected, Hannah sat on the dock, staring pitifully onto the shimmering water. Then suddenly I heard, “Ready or not, here I come!”
    Splash! Mom jumped into the lake fully clothed. The grandkids’ squeals of laughter and shrieks of delight echoed throughout the cove. “I can’t believe you did that!” my son Kyler exclaimed, grinning ear to ear. “I dare you to do it again!”
    I’m sure Kyler will get his wish, because of this I am certain: Cabin Grandma has many more tricks up her sleeve. And about 500 more games of Crazy Eights.

Frequent contributor Christy Heitger-Ewing aspires to one day be a Cabin Grandma. But first she must learn her mom’s secret to producing boundless energy.
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