Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Saturday Drive

"Kids, we're going on an adventure today!" It was a Saturday. In March. Around these parts, this time of year, I get desperate to find something different to do when we've been cooped up inside for so long.

"Are we going somewhere for a long time in the car?" either Anna or Ethan asked.

"Well, yes," I said quickly. "But we're going to see something COOL!"

"But I want to play WiiU," whined one. You can guess which.

"I don't like long car rides," whined the other.

Sometimes I just don't get my kids. I know, they're their own little people. But I still don't understand how they could be my flesh and blood and not like mystery car rides.

When I was a kid, we didn't have much money, and a lot of Saturdays we spent just driving, looking for something we hadn't seen before, on the back roads of Massachusetts or sometimes even Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire or Vermont. That's the beauty of New England. It doesn't take you long to get somewhere completely different (hello, beach or mountains!). To this day, I get a little giddy about driving somewhere I've never been before, about checking out little towns or going a different way to get somewhere or finding a scenic road or vista or just getting off the darned highway I drive up and down every day.

We loaded into the car and it took about five minutes for someone to get too hot and ask to open the windows. Then there was the arguing about whether a certain song on the radio should be turned up loud or not.

"Where are we going?" I kept hearing from the back as we made our way through the towns...West Hartford...Avon...Canton...New Hartford. At one point we were supposedly on a scenic road that didn't seem very scenic, but hey, this is Connecticut, not the Pacific Coast Highway.

Once we passed Torrington, which to me is a big, sad kind of old mill town, I began to feel more relaxed. We left traffic lights behind and kept climbing and zooming down hills.

"Roller coaster roads! This is like Maine!" Ethan called out.

I admired the contrast of red barns against white snow. The Litchfield Hills (Connecticut's sorry little "mountains") spread all around us. Evidence of spring was nowhere in sight. But that didn't matter. These were new roads, new towns. This wasn't another walk down the aisles of Target or the shopping madness in Manchester or the same old drives to school and back.

Goshen...Cornwall...Kent. We pulled into the driveway of a state park. From the road we saw it.

"A frozen waterfall!" Anna exclaimed. "Can we go see it?"

"That's why we're here."

So we tumbled out of the car...and immediately realized how much colder and windier it had gotten in the last hour, and how we all really needed boots and mittens (at least Chloe had them on). Nevertheless, we made our way across the little covered bridge and down the path towards the water. Chloe insisted on walking, which meant our pace was veeerrry slllooow. And she kept falling.

We looked out at what is normally a cascading waterfall. Most of it was frozen but near the bottom we could see water bubbling under the ice, and the water at the bottom was flowing. The stream wound its way through the park we were in and out into the woods to our right. All around us were snow-covered hills and soaring maples that had their own beauty, standing stark against the gray sky.

I spent about 90 seconds enjoying it all; breathing in the crisp air; watching the family who had just come out of the woods above us, whooshing by us on sleds.

Then the wheels came off the bus. Or okay, they came loose. Chloe kept losing her mittens and almost lost a shoe. Ethan roared ahead of us and got way too close to a slippery area near the bottom of the waterfall. I started yelling for him to stop and so did Anna. Then she approached him and they started fighting and shoving each other and one or both of them tumbled into the snow (I can't remember). All of this was in full view of at least five other park visitors who were probably members of the, shall we say, dignified, town of Kent (Dan and I had been here once, in the summer -- it's the kind of place that has quaint inns and antique shops and pricey tiny clothing stores and lots of New York license plates. It has a Martha's Vineyard sort of feel). I wondered if they'd seen my falling apart Saturn SUV and wondered what kind of riff-raff had wandered into town.

Ethan took off across a field in search of a bathroom (of course they were locked) and I kept yelling at him to not get too close to the stream. Anna began shivering uncontrollably since, as a tween, it's illegal to zip up her coat. Chloe cried because she wanted to walk even though most of her was quickly growing wet and cold.

About 20 minutes after we'd arrived, we were back in the car. I felt as if I'd just completed some sort of marathon...breathless, numb, exhilarated, and wondering if I was crazy. We had to drive home now. Had this really been a good idea?

"I like this place," Ethan announced. "I wish we could stay longer."

"I'm glad we came here," Anna said.

"Yeah. Thank you for taking us here, mama," Ethan added.

And so, even though the ride home involved crying, whining kids, a frantic search for a gas station after realizing I was low on fuel, and too much sugar at Dunkin' Donuts to stop the wails of children who were convinced they were going to starve, I knew: it had all been worth it.



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