Monday, May 31, 2010

A Divine Day

On Sunday, Ruanita and I decided to take an impromptu "practice run" day trip with the kids. We will be driving fourteen hours to Kentucky in a week, so a practice trip was not a bad idea with our rowdy brood. We woke up Sunday morning with no intention of taking a trip, however. We were laying in bed at about 7:00am with all three of the kids lounging on top of us, of course, when Ruanita got a crazy idea. Suddenly, and quite out of character, she announced that she thought it would be fun to drive to Duluth for the day. Duluth is about two and a half hours north of the Twin Cities, on the tip of Lake Superior. I was a bit astounded at Ruanita's suggestion. She rarely (and by rarely, I mean never) suggests that we do anything on the spur of the moment. All trips, activities, purchases, plans must be discussed weeks in advance. Everything must be planned...details hashed out. So for her to wake up one morning and suggest that we drive to Duluth for the day was more than a bit astonishing.

We pitched the idea to the kids. Lucas and Nicky were iffy about it, since a day trip meant that they would be away from their precious TV and their even more precious Wii for the day. However, we finally convinced them...or perhaps just forced our will upon them....and we were ready to go. We jumped out of bed, got everyone dressed, threw some snacks in a bag and we were in the car on our way to Duluth by 8:00am. We even left dirty dishes in the sink. If you know Ruanita at all, you know that was not an easy thing for her to do.

The day started out a bit shaky. The kids fought over which movie they would watch on the DVD player we bought for our trip to Kentucky next week. Everyone complained that they couldn't hear the movie we finally settled upon. We heard more than our share of the obligatory "Are we there yet?" However, we managed to survive the drive and did eventually arrive in Duluth. Immediately upon getting out of the car, all three kids had to go potty. We found a Caribou Coffee and elbowed our way to the back of the store to the restrooms. After everyone completed their business and we snuck out the back door without buying anything, we started to walk toward the lake. Nicholas was extremely whiny. Sophie complained that she was cold. Lucas' legs were "tired" after walking all of one block. We brought our camera, but discovered quite quickly that the battery was completely dead. We searched around for a shop that sold disposable cameras. Those are few and far between these days. My kids were amazed by the camera we did finally find. They had never seen a camera that did not allow them to look at the picture the minute it was taken. So they were more than a bit enthralled.

After a rocky start, we ended up having a glorious day. We collected rocks on the beach at Canal Park. The kids terrified several flocks of unsuspecting seagulls. We had lunch at Grandma's Saloon. It was a really nice "family day." About 2:00pm, we decided to leave Duluth and drive about 40 miles up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Gooseberry Falls. I don't know if it was the falls themselves or the view of Lake Superior in all of its glory, but something changed at that point in the day. Suddenly, everyone became cooperative. All of the whining ceased. The kids fell in love with the falls. We climbed on rocks. We touched the falls. Lucas, being the daredevil boy he can sometimes be, slipped off of a rock and landed butt-first in the frigid river. He was a good sport about it though. Everyone got muddy and sweaty and was glorious. We decided to hike back to where the Gooseberry River empties into Lake Superior. That was a sight to behold. Where the cold water from the lake meets the warmer water from the river, an amazing fog forms and rolls upriver from the lake. I was completely enchanted. The kids, however...not so much. I pointed out the fog at least a half a dozen times, but the kids were more concerned with skipping rocks on the river bank. We climbed up the rocks to a cliff that overlooked the lake. A park bench sat at the top of the cliff. We sat for the longest time...all five of us...on the park bench watching the waves from the lake crash onto the rocks. It was truly magical. We were spellbound. We finally, however, had to tear ourselves away from Lake Superior to hike back to the car. It was getting late and we had a nice little hike and an even longer drive ahead of us. The kids did amazingly well hiking back, though Ruanita and I did have to give some piggie back rides along the way. When we got back to the car, we stripped off wet pants and muddy shoes. We had an extra outfit in our diaper bag for Sophie, so she got to ride home in clean clothes. The boys made the three-hour drive home in their t-shirts and underwear with towels covering their laps. The kids dozed and watched movies on the way home. There was a sense of peace and accomplishment in our car that evening. As we entered the Twin the exact spot where Highway 35 splits into 35E and 35W, signaling the beginning of the Twin Cities metropolitan area...we caught a glimpse of a perfect rainbow in the pink and purple sky. It was the ideal ending to an immaculate day. This may sound cheesy, but it was almost as though God or the universe or something was smiling upon us and welcoming us home.

I learned an invaluable lesson on Sunday. Sometimes, amidst the chaos and confusion of everyday life, we need to take a break. We need to step away. We need to leave the dishes in the sink and the lawn un-mowed and step out of our usual routine. By leaving our home for just one day, I felt a sudden renewed commitment to my home and my children and partner. I discovered the joys of just "being" with my family. Standing on the shore of Lake Superior watching Ruanita skip rocks with the kids, I was never more in love than I was with those four people at that moment.


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