In some ways, they were our practice children. Sort of like in Home Economics when they give you a bag of flour to take care of...
Fortunately, the human kids were more durable.
Because of these visits, Cheri and I got to test the waters of parenthood before we decided to take the plunge into pregnancy. (I apologize for those cheesy metaphors, but I am trying to teach my creative writing students that blogs don't need to be perfect.)
Camp Bradford became the nickname for our house during the summer. And Cheri embraced that title by making every day filled with a series of wonderful misadventures.
Megan and Matthew were the first dynamic niece/nephew duo to experience Camp Bradford... followed by our Canadian God-Son Corey (but Corey's exploits will be saved for another blog).
Lucky for us, and our eventual offspring, Megan and Matthew were very friendly, well-behaved youngsters. Life was easy-going whenever these "little angels" joined Camp Bradford. When I was in my early 20s, I didn't think I wanted to be a father. It seemed too serious. Too monumental. Too much of a milestone of my mortality. Yet Megan and Matthew made parenting seem like fun... which meant deep down they were devious little devils because it wasn't long after the first Camp Bradford summer when I finally told Cheri, "Sure, honey, let's have a baby. It'll be a piece o' cake."
I've been exhausted ever since.
I was reminiscing about the days of Camp Bradford, and decided to look for some photographic evidence of the events... but there weren't as many pictures as I had hoped. Still, I did find some highlights which give a hint at just how much fun it was to show these young Washingtonians the joys of southern California.
They were obsessed with swimming pools. They wanted to stay in the water 24/7. Cheri and I didn't have a pool, but our friends in Orange County did, which meant that these kids expected us to drive beyond the Orange Curtain every day. Matthew loved to dive for quarters and Megan loved to splash me in the face and call me Dopey. (That was our thing.) One time, when we were in the car and Matthew kept asking "are we there yet" every three minutes, I said, "You know Matt, there's no water in this pool we're going too."
"Nope. There was a big crack at the bottom and the water drained to the center of the earth."
"How did it get cracked, Uncle Wade?"
"We're not sure, but it may have been one of your quarters when it sank to the bottom."
It's hard to tell in this photograph, but my good friend John and Nephew Matthew are playing with Star Wars figures. John -- and many of my fellow arch-geeks -- still loved to buy action figures, but did we grown men ever hang around the apartment battling them against each other. No way! (No matter how much we secretly wanted to...)
But then I realized, if you have a kid visiting you, you can full-on play with your toys the same way you did when you were 8 years old, and people say, "Aw... you're so good with kids." When really, it's just an excuse to reconnect with G.I. Joe and Cobra Commander.
Visiting our relatives at the zoo.
The Obligatory Pilgrimage to the Giant Rat of Anaheim.
You pay your own way when you stay at Camp Bradford. These kids shoveled coal into a steam locomotive 14 hours a day.
And then they slept in a cave, without blankets! At least that's how I remember it... I could be wrong. They seem happy, though, right? These were good days.
Nowadays, Matthew has been traveling the world. He's grown into a man, but I still recognize that little boy. Can you tell which one he is?
Megan is in her late 20s... and she's been known to go misadventuring with my daughters from time to time. Here she is (the one with the pink strap), on a volcano island with her fiance, her sister, and her cousins... probably trying to lead my girls near the lava as payback for Camp Bradford.