Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Sweetest Things

The kids have school vacation this week (unlike most of the rest of the state, who had vacation last week). The forecast is cool; rainy. I've been wondering, as I often do with three kids of such varying ages and interests, how to keep them all happy.

I used to be one who craved excitement. I couldn't just take a vacation, darnit, it had to be an adventure that jammed and crammed more locations than physically possible into one week (which is why, at one point on a trip in Utah years ago, we found ourselves trying to squeeze visits to three national parks in one day).

It's vacation week, and everyone around here people seems to have grand plans. Or if not grand, at least, getaways for every day to keep the kids occupied. The science center. The dinosaur place. The indoor water park. There are times I look around and think, I don't know how to do any of this with three. Never mind the money. It's that they'd want to go in three different directions. Even hiking. How I long to hike with the kiddos. Only -- Chloe can't really trudge across long distances yet. But she's so big for her age that putting her in a backpack can be really taxing.

So these days (including vacation week) we spend more time than we ever have at home, or in our backyard, and sometimes I feel bad about that. Like the other day, when our big plans were going to Stop & Shop. In the rain. And I bought them pickles while we were there. Because they really like pickles.

After the groceries had been unloaded, pickles (and other lunch items) eaten, Chloe had gone down for a nap and the other two had tired of bickering, I noticed the rain sliding down the glass. I was wrapped in my favorite fuzzy blanket on the couch. "Guys, look at the rain," I said.

Getting comfy while watching Superstorm Sandy, 2012

I was reminded of the day a few years ago when they were home from school due to Superstorm Sandy. After they'd danced out in their bare feet on the soggy back deck, we laid down on the carpet and looked up at the trees in our backyard. The branches danced wildly; the sight was almost hypnotizing.

I remembered the walk on a frozen brook with my dad on a long ago winter day; the warm spring evening we dug up worms for fishing the next day...the cool of the mud on my bare feet.

I thought of picking dandelions in one grandmother's backyard, the rhythmic hum of a sawmill in the distance. I remembered the small cup of hot tea in my other grandmother's kitchen, and the summer evenings she'd pick basil from the garden and bring the bunch to my face so I could take a fragrant whiff.

I remembered playing Chutes & Ladders on Saturday nights with my parents, my hair still wet from the bath, and running around the bandstand on the green of a nearby town on Sunday evenings, playing tag as the music played and cars honked their appreciation.

I could hear my grandmother tucking us in on nights when she babysat. She would always, always sing "Jesus Loves Me." Then "Jesus Loves the Little Children." And I have never felt so safe.

"Kids, just sit here and listen to the rain," I said again. They didn't really want to, because they were afraid I was going to make them have some "quiet rest and reading" like we used to do when they were a bit younger. But that was okay. I had had a moment to be reminded that when I remembered the best things about childhood, the trip to Disney was never the first thing to come to mind. Neither was any visit to a museum, aquarium, or amusement park.

Instead I remembered after dinner rides for ice cream and hide and seek just as it was getting dark and my dad sending a beam from the flashlight into the sky and telling us how the stars we were looking at may no longer be there.

Life can't be so much about trying to acquire moments as making the most of the little ones we have.

The rest of the afternoon we did not do much of anything special. I'm pretty sure even Chloe was bored (she brought me a shoe as if to say, "Enough of this -- let's go outside"). But we did partake in a pretty good game of Jumping Off the Couch Cushions.

And who knows? Maybe their minds, their memories snapped a picture. Maybe they will pull it out and dust it off some day, when they look back and think about all of the sweetest things that have helped them become the people they will be.

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