Grandson grows up in The Last Frontier

Special to the Gazette

Having a grandson living in Alaska has been an interesting experience for our family and friends living in Williamsburg.

Since the age of 3, Tanner has been spending a part of his summers here with us. Like many Alaskans, his parents work hard during the summer, especially in the tourist areas, because the work diminishes greatly in the winter.

While visiting with us, one of Tanner's first "jobs" was to go every day to the community mailbox in our Counselors Close neighborhood and bring home the mail. The first time he went alone to pick up the mail, it was quite some time before he returned. I asked him, "What took you so long?"

"Grandma," he said, "going up that big hill and all those trees, I had to be sure there wasn't a moose somewhere. You know, they can be dangerous especially if you get between a mama moose and her baby!"

I reassured him that occasionally we might see a deer but never had heard about any moose present in our area.

Living in Alaska's "outback," a 6-year-old experiences quite a few different things in Williamsburg. After walking together several times to the Williamsburg Library from our nearby home, I asked Tanner whether he would be comfortable walking there on his own. "Yippee," he said, and was delighted.

Being completely independent, walking alone on the street "in a town" was, for him, truly an adventure. After he returned home to Alaska, several people, some whom I have known, others, strangers asked about Tanner. It turns out he talked freely with lots of people on his way to the library. He apparently adhered to the "wilderness ethic." He was friendly to everyone he encountered.

When Tanner was about 10 years old, a Williamsburg resident asked him, "What would you do if you found yourself lost in the wilderness during a winter storm?" Tanner nonchalantly replied: "I would build an igloo from snow blocks. I always carry with me a pocket knife."

Now, age 13, Tanner and I will spend some time in California, participating in an Intergenerational Road Scholar program. This was his choice, and it certainly will be an adventure of a different kind than the ones he experienced in Alaska and Williamsburg.

Lenthall lives in Williamsburg.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette