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One of the many things I’ve learned about writing is that you (a writer) have to pay attention. You have to become increasingly mindful of the events going on about you, including sights, sounds, gestures, expressions, breezes, hummingbirds, and just about any and everything else you might have ignored before. You have to zero in on conversations and mood changes and sound inflections. AND you need to have a pen and paper nearby to write these things down before they’re forever gone from memory.

Until a year or so ago I would have smiled at a couple of phrases uttered by my grandchildren and perhaps written about them in my gratitude journal. But now, these words and the accompanying experiences have taken on new meaning, and it’s not because I’m one of those doting grandmothers who thinks that everything the little darlings say is worth noting for posterity. It’s because little ones have so much to teach us if we’d only pay attention.

 Last Friday we rode caravan style to the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head for the sole purpose of climbing atop the Harbour Town lighthouse. We wanted to do a little something different to celebrate my daughter’s birthday, and climbing the 114 steps to the top of the red and white striped lighthouse appealed to all of us. We’d never climbed a lighthouse together before, and this one overlooking the yacht basin seemed to beckon us to “come on up.”

By the time we finally arrived at Sea Pines, it was already a sweltering afternoon. Everyone, even the usually adaptable children, was sweaty, sticky, and a little out of sorts. Once we saw the lighthouse and realized how miserably hot it would be and that someone would probably have to carry the 2-year-old all the way to the top, his mother decided to stay behind with him.

Undaunted, the rest of us went into the museum/lighthouse and plunked our money down. As an aside, the cost is now $3.75 per person, something tourists need to know. One website advertised $3 person, and another announced a fee of $1. When I mentioned this to the nice lady selling tickets, she said that although their prices had changed this year, the website(s) had not been updated. Good to know.

My daughter Elizabeth and I began the ascent to the top of the lighthouse with four young children, and all was well for the first flight of steps. Emma, the 6-year-old, got scared and begged her aunt Elizabeth to carry her. Despite the insufferable heat, Elizabeth complied…at least for a while. Then 4-year-old Colton’s courage began to flag, and he wanted to be carried too. Upon reaching the next landing, we stepped to the side and explained that we could either continue climbing the museum/lighthouse to the top with everyone walking OR we could go down and miss the view from the top. After a moment’s hesitation, it was onward and upward.

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Slowly and haltingly, we began our ascent, moving aside a few times to let faster, braver people go by us. Little Colton reached for my hand, and I was surprised to feel that he was shaking. “Hold on tight,” I said encouragingly.

Elizabeth turned to look at us, and Colton announced, “I’m teaching Grandmama how to be brave.”

“I see that,” she said.

We continued to the top and felt pretty proud of ourselves for making the trip without further hesitation. There’s a neat little gift shop at the top of the lighthouse, but instead of stopping to browse, we walked right outside to the observation deck for a few photo ops. We circled the deck, snapping pictures and mingling with the other tourists who were also enjoying the view. I took pictures of a family, and the father in the group took a few pictures of us.

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I’ll go back again, and next time I’ll pause long enough to study the photographs and other artifacts placed along the entire ascent of the lighthouse. I’ll also remember a courageous little boy, who despite his fear, bravely held my hand and went forward, never looking back. The lessons:  (1) Hold hands and as Joyce Meyer advises  (2) “Do it scared.”

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