Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A short excursion on a sunny afternoon

It’s always pleasing when the most unplanned excursions turn out to be so much fun. For all the time I spend scrutinizing the family calendar and reading up on regional cultural highlights, figuring out which weekend we might be able to visit this museum or that landmark only to see the plans nudged aside by bad weather, Tim’s baseball schedule, too much work for Rick, or the out-and-out preference all four of us often cannot resist to just stay home when the opportunity arises – as I call it, the ever-present fine balance between agoraphobia and cocooning -- sometimes something that required no planning, research or advance ticket sales at all just happens and we have a great time. Familial serendipity.

Yesterday afternoon was just such an experience, though it was almost too minor to even term an excursion. I received an email saying that a library book Tim was on the reserve list for was finally available, and Tim asked me if I’d pick it up for him. Holly climbed off the bus cheerful and dynamic, unlike the day before; she skipped down the driveway, making me think maybe she was good for more than an afternoon snack and some coloring, which is how she often opts to spend the hour or two before dinner. The weather was sunny and cool.

“Want to go to the library with me to pick up a book for Tim?” I asked Holly. “If you’ll walk or ride your bike, you can buy a snack at Ferns.” Ferns is our local country store and it’s across the street from the library; both are exactly a mile from our house. In my ongoing efforts to see Holly spend time outdoors, active and exercising, I often couple a small treat with a walk or bike ride. It’s less of an issue with Tim because he plays so much baseball at this time of year.

Holly said she’d go with me, which I didn’t expect, but even more surprising was that when I asked Tim if he wanted to come along just so as not to overlook him entirely, he said he would. That was unusual; he usually opts for homework, reading and computer games in the late afternoon hours. I’m not sure what enticed him yesterday, but I was happy as the three of us set out on our bikes at about 4:30. It felt like a fine way to take advantage of a sunny mild afternoon, one in which we still had hours of sunlight left in the day although at other times of year it would have been dark by then already.

And despite the lack of planning and anticipation, we had a great time. Not even a minor bike malfunction could mar the fun: outside the post office, Tim’s chain got stuck in a gear sprocket, and although I know how to fix a derailed chain, I couldn’t get this one unstuck. As we stood there attempting to fix it, the postmaster himself came out of the building and pried it back into place for us. I was impressed with his abilities and tremendously grateful for his willingness to leave the office to help us.

We continued on our way, picked up the book, and then sat on the farmer’s porch at Ferns, basking in the late-afternoon western exposure. The kids ate ice cream sandwiches; Holly left me a quarter of hers to finish, which was a bonus I never expect these days.

It was a small and simple excursion, but a reminder of how much fun it is when circumstances just fall into place like that. By bedtime, a bad cold was lodging its way into my head and chest, and biking was the last thing I felt like doing. But I was so glad we’d taken advantage of an open and sunny afternoon. Sometimes I’m disappointed when plans I’ve taken great pains to organize fail to execute, but then I remember spontaneous pleasures like yesterday and I’m reminded of how things tend to balance out, one way or another, as long as you don’t work too hard at it.

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