I’m just coming off twelve glorious days of vacation home with the boys. We made crafts, we visited the aquarium, and we went to the trampoline place – a LOT. I got a whole new appreciation for my parents, who do much of the childcare while I’m at work. Keeping little boys entertained for two straight weeks is no picnic.
It made me think about how my parents used to spend weekends with me when I was a kid. We didn’t have a ton of money, so whenever my parents needed to kill a day, we hopped in the car and drove towards history. There’s no shortage of notable sites in the Mid-Atlantic, so we set out to see “the ‘Burgs.” You know, Gettysburg, Williamsburg…
Many of my weekends were spent eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of a tote bag, bare legs swinging under a weather-beaten picnic table perched on a Civil War battlefield. Or steeped in the sweat-lodge of a blacksmithy on a 100-degree day, watching a man in pantaloons hammer a glob of molten iron into a horseshoe. Which is how I’m sure all pre-adolescent girls spent their Saturdays.
Occasionally I’d get to bring a friend. This was a rare treat for me, because it meant I could talk about girl stuff instead of being forced to admire the craftsmanship of the Amish, who made amazingly sturdy barns without power tools. Or rugged pants without modern technology, like buttons.
Sometimes, not realizing that these trips had seeped into my DNA, I’d make offhand comments like, “This is a really impressive quilt display,” or “We should come back for the glass-blowing demonstration,” and my cover would be blown. I secretly DID find this crap interesting, and I had unwittingly coerced my pal into an educational excursion with my parents. I could tell which of my friends really liked me, because they were the ones who came back for a second trip.
Through the years I started to welcome the smell of kerosene lamps and the sound of foot-pedal sewing machines like old friends. When I was an adult, I kept the tradition alive by dragging unwitting friends into the ‘Burgs with me. We’d slow down for a few hours and just LOOK. Saunter. Amble. Stroll. Talk about our surroundings. Such a lovely change from the usual day-to-day, isn’t it? And if you learn something new along the way, even better.
I have many friends now who call me Cliff Clavin, and with good reason. I am a wealth of useless knowledge, amassed largely because of these day trips with my parents. I have every intention of doing this to my kids, too, because it gives them context around the world we live in. If you can appreciate where we’ve come from, and why, then the present is infinitely more explainable. Or at least, some parts are. That’s a pretty helpful gift to give your kids, no?
There’s a woman somewhere nearby, giving demonstrations with a butter churner. Let’s go find her, kids!