When a young family is raising young children money can usually be fairly tight. So it was when my parents were raising five children, all born within eight years of each other.
While mom and dad didn’t have a lot of money, they did have plenty of imaginative ways to entertain their brood on a shoestring budget.
They also had a car, which helped when many of their family day activities usually involved going for long drives.
Mom would fry up some chicken, or make sandwiches and Kool-Aid knowing five hungry youngsters would surely require feeding on the way. Stopping at a fast food joint – they simply couldn’t afford.
So, off we would go, quite often not knowing the destination, but excited nonetheless. Mom, dad, the five siblings and the dog would cram into the Country Squire looking forward to whatever would unfold. It didn’t matter if it was raining or shining, we knew we were in for a great adventure and a scrumptious picnic lunch made special by our mother. How much better does life get than that?
I can vouch that, despite best laid plans, things didn’t always go as planned, and so we learned to ignore the occasional mishaps, such as sand in the sandwiches, lukewarm Kool-Aid or chicken which was neither hot nor cold. It was all part and parcel of the adventure.
To this day, I’m greatly entertained by taking a long drive to no planned destination (my husband and I have nicknamed those drives Get Lost Days). Get Lost Days originated several years ago when we were visiting in Arizona. We had decided to go for a drive just to look at the scenery. To my dismay I found that parts of the desert actually have roads. Yup. Roads. When we would come to a crossroad, my husband would turn to me and say, “Left or right?” and I would pick the direction. It’s amazing what one can discover and see when we untether ourselves from our self-made boundaries. We’ve had many Get Lost Days since, and have built some wonderful memories around those drives.
Last week, my husband and I were again in Arizona, and we decided to picnic at a spot called Coon something or other. When we got there we discovered we had a bit of a minor problem. It seems the US Forest Service requires a pass which must be displayed in your vehicle. No pass? Expect a fine. Adding to that, we spotted two USFS vehicles in the park. So we decided not to chance it and instead turned around and backtracked to a little pullout we saw along our way. No big deal.
So what if there wasn’t picnic benches. My husband suggested I could sit on a rock. I didn’t mind the rock, but I did mind the big hole in the earth beside it – big enough, in fact, for a snake (rattler?) or some creepy, slithering thing to hide in and ambush me when I sat on the rock. I politely declined the rock offer and instead, opened the car door and ate my sandwich in the front seat. Once again, no big deal.
Well, it wasn’t really a big deal until I noticed this decidedly sickening aroma wafting by my nostrils and the onslaught of flies. Lots of flies.
Looking around I realized why we had such buzzing lunch guests and appetizing aroma. We had parked ourselves in the middle of a lot which was, evidently, the first stop along the way for cowboys and their horses as they headed out for a desert ride. Uh huh. There was horse poop everywhere. Everywhere.
Needless to say, our picnic came to a screeching halt and we headed back home.
I hope you’re laughing as you are reading this, because I can tell you I am laughing my head off writing this. There is a point to be made in this column and it’s really quite simple; you can choose to look at your glass as half empty or half full. In the end, whichever you choose will stay with you as a lasting impression and a lasting memory.
I choose to look at that day as a humourous adventure spent in the company of my best friend and husband, and boy do we have some stories to tell.
My wish for you is that you too smile, or laugh, as you recall your memories.
Now, go get lost!