Do you know what it was like to be 13?

My oldest granddaughter is now 13.  A teenager. Beginning what is supposedly an angst-filled and uncertain time for humans.

I have no clue what it was like to be thirteen years old. My family sent out a Christmas letter. They’ve been collected into a notebook which I use whenever I want to know what I was doing at a certain age. Checking the records, I see I was a Star Scout, diligently working on merit badges. Once I read this in the Christmas letter archives, the memories come back and I remember the Scout meetings and the camping trips and family trip to a lake near Rhinelander, Wisconsin where we tried (without success) to catch Pike and Muskies.

I know my granddaughter’s primary focus is ballet lessons. She’s been in Girl Scouts. She likes the scariest rides at Disney World and other theme parks. Goodness knows I, as her grandfather, don’t know how to handle ballet lessons or perform on stage. So, no wisdom from me on being a teen.

Not that she’d ask.

She’s a vegan even though her sister and parents aren’t. My wife and I wonder where that came from; perhaps she heard about it from another kid at school and the approach to eating made sense.

I can’t help with that.

I know she can be very stubborn, very focused on what she wants to do. I can identify with that. Seriously, I was a horrible teenager mainly because I had no respect for authority and didn’t like being told what to do or what not to do.

My daughter won’t let me say anything about what I felt at thirteen. I don’t blame her. Yet, I worry, because being an outlier can be a lonely road. If we saw each other more often (she lives in MD and I live in GA), I could listen and hope listening is all she wanted.

So, she’s slowly turning into an adult, a time when parents are often skeptical about the value of too much contact with grandparents. My parents often thought my grandparents were a bad influence. That meant that I thought my grandparents were a good influence.

I was very independent as a teen. I think my granddaughter will be, too. I’m both happy and concerned about that. Her IQ will get her into trouble that I hope she’ll figure out how to get out of.

Grandpa’s sort of a rebel. Best that I don’t let her know.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel “The Sun Singer.”

Buying Christmas Gifts for My Granddaughters

My granddaughters live in Maryland and my wife and I live in Georgia, so we need to order Christmas gifts early in November so there’s time for my wife to wrap them (my gift wrapping is a joke), box them up, and mail them. Fortunately, my daughter helps by sending a long list. We don’t see Feya and Beatrice as often as we wish (my cancer kept us from having a springtime visit this year), so we need a little help. We share the list with my sister in law after we check off what we’ve chosen.

On the wish list.

This year, Freya wants a book on learning Japanese and Beatrice wants a book on learning French. I had no luck learning either language, but far be it from me to say anything negative about the family gene pool when it comes to languages. Freya, who loves ballet, also loves to draw. Beatrice had a slew of books on her list. Okay, I’m happy to see this, so the gene pool isn’t entirely bankrupt.

The girls watch a lot of kids’ movies on Netflix. That and their interactions with other kids at school introduce them to fads and pastimes that I don’t know anything about. Looking at these gift ideas is an education. Manga and Anime drawing–I have no idea what that is even though I’ve been to Japan.

When we were at Disney World last year and had just left the Japanese pavilion (where I sampled the sake), I saw something cute and inadvertently said, “Kawaii!!!!!!.” My granddaughters whirled around. “How to do you know that, Grandpa?” “From watching you,” I said, though I believe they were sceptical.

My daughter and her husband have been giving their daughters a culture-rich life of museums and parks and plays. I highly approve. So, their wish lists for Christmas and birthdays don’t include guns and cherry bombs and acid rock music. Whew.

Since my book Widely Scattered Ghosts is dedicated to my granddaughters, I sent two, signed copies to my daughter a year ago. I said it’s too soon for either Freya or Beatrice to have a copy of this. But when the time is right, they can see them. It’s still too soon. But whenever the time is right, I hope they enjoy grandpa’s stories.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”




My granddaughters will have to wait a while for my ghost story book

My granddaughters are 11 and 6 years old, so I thought it would be cool to dedicate my new collection of stories (Widely Scattered Ghosts) to them so that when they are in their 50s they can take a copy to Antiques Road Show and learn that the book–at auction–is then worth $1000000000000.

This haunted Florida bridge is the setting for one of the stories.

They live in Maryland, so I’m going to mail the book. But I can’t address it to them because they love getting things in the mail, especially packages. But they’re way too young to read any of the stories. Even though none of the stories are the Stephen King variety, Freya and Beatrice will need to wait until they’re teenagers (I guess) before they get to see the book.

So, the mail is going to my daughter with instructions to hide the book and to remember where she hid it. My father was an author. I always thought it was neat to have copies of some of his books autographed for me. Maybe the girls will feel the same way even though I’m no James Patterson or John Grisham.

Four of the stories are about an inquisitive and highly intelligent teenager named Emily who talks to ghosts. She reminds me of my daughter (except for the talks-to-ghosts part). As a grandfather, I get to brag and say that I think my granddaughters will grow up to be smarter than Stephen Hawking.

That makes me wonder if they’ll correctly guess the endings to each of the stories before they get there.