Tag Archives: children

Madelyn Given enjoyed writing letters as a child.

Childhood Memories: Letter Writing

I enjoyed writing for a purpose at an early age and the main reason was letter writing. There was joy when my mother or father brought home mail from our box at the Post Office. I waited anxiously for a letter or card from an aunt, a great aunt, my grandmother, or a pen pal. I was so excited that I would read the letter and sit down and respond right away. Each person was different, and the mail was very special to me.

I became a regular letter writer by third grade. After third grade, I went away to summer camp for two weeks each summer. I would write home telling all the adventures happening to me in my young life. Telephone calls were not allowed unless deemed necessary by the camp staff.

My Aunt Isabel was a Latin teacher and she would write asking me to come and visit her, or invite me to go out to dinner. One day on a visit I overheard her telling my mother to work on my spelling. This damped my desire to write to her, as I was very sensitive to criticism. In my eyes I was a great letter writer. We still wrote to each other and visited until her passing at an elderly age.

My great aunt Sylvia was the most fun to write to and receive letters. She asked just the right questions for my age. She understood what little girls liked to do.

My grandmother would send a newspaper cartoon or an article from a magazine and usually included a dollar or two to buy a treat. She was a kind and loving woman and a wonderful grandmother.

As a child I didn’t have as many distractions as children today. There was more time to read and write. We had no television; radio was played in the morning for weather reports and in the evening for news. The US Mail was an important part of communication outside of school, church, neighborhood, and the family at home. People were great about sending letters and postcards on a regular basis, not just when they went on vacation. Although people used the central telephone service to make important calls, phone calls were used with moderation, so letter writing was a part of daily life.

In 4th grade in my Girl Scout Troop I was paired up with a pen pal from Mexico. We corresponded for many years and when my mother visited Mexico she met her.

Writing letters has continued all my life. When I left home to go away to college, my mother wrote a letter to me every day. Her letters were current, upbeat, funny, and happy and she never repeated anything. She died at age 91 and wrote cards and notes up to the time of her death. That was a lifetime of letter writing. I hope this family tradition continues with my granddaughters.

-July 8, 2014

Madelyn and her husband built a magnificent tree house for their granddaughters.

A Special Tree House

A few years ago we built a walking trail along the waterfront of our home. The trail follows the water through the woods, over an old railroad bridge and a boardwalk, and through a cranberry bog to a tiny island. In the middle of this smallest of small islands is a single large pine tree. Although it was a perfect place for a tree house, there was no one to enjoy it on a regular basis. A granite bench facing the water was placed at the base of this majestic tree, but a tree house was never built.

Another tree house opportunity came up this spring, when our daughter mentioned that it would be a great idea to build one for her girls. There was a good place in their backyard. A few weeks later, with a design chosen and measurements taken, their grandfather and I, aka Papa and Nana, headed along Interstate 95 to surprise Morgan and Madison with our birthday idea. Morgan was turning 11 and Madison age 8. It was a busy day as usual: Madison had her First Communion that morning, so only later could we share the tree house surprise. By the end of the day, a platform 10 feet above the ground was built, with two solid oak trees supporting the structure. We left that night with a big stump removed, the ground cleared, and a solid base for the tree house in place. We were now committed to the project. Papa had reminded me more than once that this was not a weekend job.

Two weeks later was the scheduled outdoor birthday celebration for Morgan and Madison, but the weather forecasted a total washout so the event was postponed. Papa used that weekend to construct the tree house inside our garage, many miles from the prepared site.

The following weekend was Memorial Day weekend, and Papa rented a U-Haul. He disassembled the tree house, and with the help of our son-in-law Scott and daughter Heather, loaded tools and the large pieces of the tree house into the U-Haul on Sunday night. Nana played with the two granddaughters until they left for home that night. Early Memorial Day morning, Papa and I headed along Interstate 95 again for a day of assembling. At the end of the day, the tree house was in place on the platform, and after the granddaughters had a chance to inspect it, we headed home.

A few days later our daughter and son-in-law were off for an anniversary trip to Panama and I was babysitting the two granddaughters. After several days Papa and I packed up the minivan and Jeep Commander with luggage, tools, pre-cut lumber, and the girls. We headed along Interstate 95 once again with the tree house project foremost on our minds. In the next three days the roof went on and railings were built for the deck and stairs. Trim was added to the four windows and the door was hinged into place. It began to look like a tree house. Papa went home tired, yet relieved that he could see the end in sight.

One more time Papa drove along Interstate 95, this time to put up staging and shingle the roof of the tree house. Heather helped with the roofing. Latches were put on the windows and a bird house was placed in one of the trees. The tongue and groove board walls were ready for sealer and Heather and the granddaughters took out paint brushes. Busy little hands went to work while their minds were on how to decorate it and how much fun was planned for the tree house in the summer days ahead.

A 5th grade friend of Morgan had a wall plaque designed as a birthday gift for the girls. The plaque reads: “In memory of Uncle Mike ~ Morgan and Madison’s Tree House”. A perfect gift, don’t you think–for Uncle Mike was the talented carpenter who made so many projects for his beloved nieces, and he had promised to make a tree house for them. The plaque was hung on the door with loving thoughts of the joy and laughter that will rock these walls, just as Michael had brought so much laughter and happiness to so many every day until his recent sudden and untimely death. His joy remains bright, his laughter rings out from places near and far, and the tree house brings him close to our hearts.

-June 24, 2014


Madelyn Given enjoys hiking with her granddaughters.

Hiking with Children

As a parent, former Cub Scout Leader, Girl Scout, and retired elementary teacher, I enjoy being with children.  They bring joy, increase your fun, and keep life lively. Until you know the level of their physical well-being, begin with short easy hikes and work up to more difficult ones as their interest grows.

I began hiking with our children when they were just 3 or four years old. Taking a day trip to a state park and bringing a picnic lunch, we would hike a small hill and learn something about nature. As our children grew and enjoyed these trips we went on longer hikes to small nearby mountains. Day hikes often led to a summit of a mountain or to a pond for a quick swim. We tried to organize a get-together with other families and friends to add to the fun and adventure. Camping was often included with these hikes on summer weekends or even a week’s vacation. We spent more time preparing for overnight hiking trips to higher, more remote mountains like Mt. Katahdin. Nature is always exciting and to spot a deer, a moose or a bear is part of the adventure.

An annual trip, special to our children, was to camp and hike Mt Katahdin each year. The first time the children made it to Chimney Pond and we camped there. It was a three or four day camping experience in the park. This became a meeting place and reunion for my college roommate. We each had a carload of children and all the camping gear. Sometimes it was spur of the moment: let’s go for a hike. After a hike children are more relaxed, healthier, and happier. They build good appetites and sleep more soundly. The children come home with tales to tell of an animal they saw, a cave they discovered, or a new friend they met along the way.

Hikes bring back great memories. We don’t often remember day to day routine things but you remember a good hike.  More than 60 years ago my father took me on a hike to go fishing for book trout. I remember the anticipation that he was going to do something special with me. I don’t think we fished very long because of the mosquitoes and black flies. We didn’t bring back any trout but the hike through the woods, not even on a trail, was memorable. Today it would not be considered a hike but it was a rare childhood adventure.

When I hiked the Appalachian Trail I met up with Boy Scout Troops out for a weekend of camping. There was an occasional Girl Scout Troop hiking, and on one occasion I came into a state park near New York City and several private schools had taken students out for a hiking adventure.

My granddaughters are great little hikers. They hike with me or with friends and on class trips. They take the lead in an effortless way, chit-chatting yet very observant. Weather doesn’t concern children like adults. A little mud or a few raindrops doesn’t deter the walk. Hiking with children is a good thing.

-June 10, 2014