When I was young every summer we had a Cousins Picnic day. It was a day we all looked forward to because it meant going to the creek. This picnic was a way for all of us cousins to gather and play. Between the creek and playground it was a perfect setting for children to spend a full day outdoors. I know that the hotter it was the more fun we had. Reviving that tradition was worth the 9 hour drive. The best part about this type of play is being able to explore nature, seeing the waterway, learning through play.

The same park got to see the next generation of cousins splashing in its water. Although the park is still the same in many ways it has changed. There are less places to park but more new playground equipment to enjoy. The creek still shallow remains the center of attention.

My girls have never experienced the freedom of exploring a creek. Open access to water is not a resource available to us in our suburban DC area. Perhaps there are places around DC but we have yet to discover them. However the waterways back home are not as secluded or guarded. It's the mid-western way. Water is a part of childhood. Most kids I grew up with spent summers along the rivers or lakes catching anything they could. Stories of snakes, fish, clams, crayfish, and even some epic fossil finds were a typical summer day for us kids. Even a good rock was a worthy find.

Our visit was for simple enjoyment. The girls were set off with the mission of catching anything of interest. I know some people go out creeking with a plan to collect bait but for us it was for fun. The 4 big girls ages 13-10 spent the afternoon walking up and down the creek bed. Plenty of bugs and snails were caught. They ended up with 12 crayfish and 1 minnow. The minnow was tricky to get as they are lightening fast. Each capture was followed by a cheer. At first the girls were working individually but soon learned that some things required help to flush the animals out from under rocks. Seeing them work together solving the problem of empty nets was fun to watch.

Adelynn was far too cautious to go into the water. She preferred the sandy bank where she could fill her buckets with gravel and water. She also enjoyed harassing the crayfish in the big buckets.

A few hours later the clouds rolled in and we had to call it quits. The nets were collected, buckets emptied, and captives released. Soggy feet and some soggy bottoms were dried off as stories of the "crayfish was this big" spilled from their lips. As we pulled away heading to our next adventure my girls peppered me with questions about how my cousins picnics went all those years ago. Thinking back to my picnic days they too were very similar. Big stories, lots of laughter, wet clothes, hungry tummies, and excitement. And always at the end of every one the disappointment that it was over. My girls considered my answers paused a moment then began planning for next year. A tradition worth keeping indeed.


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