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Column: The magical memories of the backyard

There are multiple times each summer I am reminded of the amazing times spent with my Grandparents, Jack, and Kathryne Smith. I have so many memories of the many wonderful vacations to Jackson, Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park and the simpler times of just enjoying time together as a family in their backyard.

Their house was always a focal point during the summer for impromptu gatherings where we would sit at their picnic table in the backyard. If there were a larger crowd, my grandpa would bring out a yellow folding Milwaukee Stamping picnic table. You always knew it would be a great evening when he would bring out this table because it meant I would usually run around the backyard with my cousins. I learned around a year ago that my cousin would keep the table in the family, and I hope he can create as many magical memories as we did during childhood.

The dinners were never anything elaborate. Sometimes we would have burgers on the grill, and often, we would just have "cold cuts" my grandma picked up at the store earlier in the day in the hopes there might be some company later on. My grandma was probably the kindest person I've met, but she was never known for being a good cook, so the deli meat was always welcome. She made a mean fruit salad, which was always a treat as the adults had a drink and the kids played.

Often times we would periodically go into the house to check on the Atlanta Braves baseball game. Growing up in Wyoming, we didn't have a team anywhere close to us, but we did have TBS through our local cable system. To this day, there are still a lot of Braves fans in Wyoming because of this.

The Braves games were always on, and while we didn't sit and watch the whole thing, we would gather around the television for the last inning. It was so fun to see the Braves finally get good and see my grandparents able to enjoy a World Title team after watching last-place teams for most of my early childhood.

Being in their backyard or front room, cooling off in the air conditioning, and watching baseball was simple, but it was the truest form of family. We didn't need much; we just enjoyed each other's company. This is something I genuinely miss.

Over the years, our family has become more distant, but those wonderful memories remain and are something I cherish and look back on fondly. It was a gift to have such incredible grandparents and cousins around the same age to grow up with.

There would also be a lot of trips to the Sand's Café as a family; one of my all-time favorite places to eat and was home to the best Chinese food I've eaten.

The adults always ordered six or seven dishes, and everybody ate family-style. There were so many trips to the Sands; it was always a great experience. Even if everyone did not agree about everything, we all loved the food.

When we made many trips to Jackson, the Hoback, Yellowstone National Park, and Star Valley, it was almost like a traveling experience of the backyard. If we were not eating at a picnic table at the campground, we were having a great family dinner at a restaurant. Many times it would just be the cousins with the grandparents, and this was a treat because we got their full attention.

Looking back, I feel awful about how we sometimes behaved without any of our parents, but I don't think our grandparents minded. They were just happy to have us.

When my grandparents got a new car, it came with a Kenny Rogers cassette tape. After the novelty of the "talking car" telling us the "door was ajar," the tape was always playing. Throughout a few summers, I probably heard "The Gambler" 100 times, but I didn't care.

If I ever hear Kenny Rogers on the radio or a commercial, I look back fondly. I do the same whenever a Braves game is on television.

I sometimes complain when it gets a little warm in the summer, but I always enjoy it when it arrives because it brings back these wonderful memories.