Tag Archives: Kartchner Caverns

On Being a Grandma

Scan_20150909Today is my granddaughter, Brenna’s birthday–she’s eighteen years old–Yikes! It seems like only yesterday that we were meeting her for the first time when we took her brother, Christopher to the hospital.

Christopher, who was two and a half, was anxious to get to the hospital,  but his first few moments with Brenna showed he had some doubts about this new family member.

Being a grandmother has been the source of some of my greatest joys in life. Before Christopher was born, I was given a book entitled “Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother.” It is a fun and engaging book and I related to it very well. The first chapter is about naming grandmother. The author points out that you won’t get to name the baby, but you will be able to choose what the baby calls you.  At first consideration, it doesn’t seem that important, but to someone used to calling an old person grandma, it is cause for concern.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about being called grandma, but I didn’t especially like any of the alternatives either.  Of course, it would be some time before that would actually be a concern. And what I learned is  you don’t name yourself, your grandchild decides what you will be called.  At first Chris called me “Ama.” Because my niece still calls my mother “Bema,” I figured that would be my name from then on. But by the time Brenna was old enough to talk, I was Grandma and my husband was Papa. We have carried those titles proudly ever since.

I have cherished every moment I have been fortunate to spend with my grandchildren, and look forward to any time I have with them.  When my grandchildren are staying with us, I put everything else aside and spend my time with them.  That time is too precious to waste on housework or other chores that can wait. There are better things to do, like hide and seek, or dress-up. I had a box full of bead necklaces. One of our favorite things to do was to hang them from the ceiling fan. Then we would turn on the fan and hide under a blanket while the beads flew around the room. It was great fun!

At one of their birthday parties, as they opened gift after gift, I came up with a idea. For the next birthday, we would spend a day with that grandchild. At first it was a day–a trip to the Phoenix Zoo, or a movie. Eventually, it grew into a short trip. We traveled to Tucson to see Kartchner Caverns and Old Tucson. We even hiked to the bottom of Havasupai Canyon. The gifts we have given them are long gone–broken, out grown. But the memories of the times we’ve spent with our grandchildren will be with them forever.

I want to close with a poem from “Funny You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother.”




China cupboards filled with cups of memories,

A piano’s tune that sang its note before me,

Secret drawers that hold my parent’s past,

All these are here for me to see

And so piece together what has gone before

To understand the people who once walked these halls.


For in the home my grandmother created,

I find the beginnings of the love I have inherited.



Vacation on the Rocks–Part I

IMG_0652Rocks were definitely the predominate feature on a trip we took recently through southern Arizona and New Mexico. We began our journey at Kartchner Caverns, southeast of Tucson, Arizona. We had been to the caverns before, on tours of the Throne Room which features the world’s longest soda straw and Kubla Khan, a fifty-eight foot column.  This time we were able to tour the Big Room which had only been open for a week. The Big Room is closed from mid-April to mid-October because it serves as a maternity ward for over a thousand female bats. It was a spectacular tour that included columns and ribbons called bacon as well as rare formations called moonmilk. What makes Kartchner Caverns distinctive from other caverns is that it is alive. Every effort is taken to maintain the proper humidity and conditions in the cavern. Watching water drip from the soda straws onto forming stalagmites, is like watching history in the making.

After leaving Arizona, we drove to Deming, New Mexico and then IMG_0649on to City of Rocks state park. It only takes a little imagination to picture Fred and Wilma coming out of one of the natural rock structures. This rock city is in the middle of a huge grassland. It appears as though some giant grew tired of carrying rocks in his pocket and dropped them on the ground. The park is a campground and some of the campsites are among the huge rocks. I had mixed feelings about that as I attempted to take pictures and avoid the huge motor homes.

After spending the night in Silver City, we left for Gila Cliff Dwellings. To get there required a journey of forty-five miles that would take an estimated two hours. The drive was along a road called the Trail of the Mountain Spirits. The two hours went by quickly as we were treated to forests of ponderosa pines splattered with the red and yellow leaves of the changing deciduous trees. Part of our drive took us up among the clouds.

When we finally reached the cliff dwellings we were greeted by forest ranger volunteers who directed us up the path along a small creek. IMG_0666 Reaching the top, the trail led us to another ranger who escorted us into the cliff dwellings. There we were able to explore the many rooms and enjoy the views. The ancient residents were Puebloan people archeologists call the Mogollon. They grew crops of beans and squash in the Gila River valley. The cliff dwellings were built between 1276 and 1287, using rock, mortar and timber.

IMG_0671The cliff dwellings consist of about 40 rooms inside five natural caves. Why the ancient people left this site is unknown. But by 1300, they abandoned their homes during a time of migration.  IMG_0682

We left the Gila Cliff Dwellings intending to follow Geronimo’s trail. This proved to be impossible because the road was closed due to damage from flooding. Forced to return to Deming and travel to Hatch, famous for their chilies, we reached our destination of Truth or Consequences. Originally named Hotsprings, New Mexico, the town changed its name in 1950, when Ralph Edwards, host of the radio quiz show, Truth or Consequences, promised to broadcast the show from any town in America willing to change its name. Hotsprings won the honor and the broadcast was held in May as part of a celebration they called “Fiesta.”

In Truth or Consequences, we stayed in a motel that offered a hotsprings bath. With water that comes out of the ground at 112.5 degrees and contains 37 minerals, we were able to soak away our travel fatigue and prepare for the rest of our journey.