Monday, November 29, 2010

Changing plans no impediment to having fun

The plan for Friday afternoon was straightforward when we formulated it first thing Friday morning. When my sister Sarah is visiting from her home in D.C., as she was over the holiday weekend, my kids and her kids want to spend as much time together as they possibly can – well, Tim at the age of 12 tends to remove himself from the action fairly early on, but Holly will happily play all day with cousins Hannah, who is 8, just like Holly; and Andrew, two years younger – and we were doing all we could to accommodate them.

“The kids can play at our house while you go to aerobics class,” I said. “I’m going to go for a quick two-mile run, then I’ll make them lunch, then we’ll go to the audience-participation screening of Mary Poppins in Arlington at two o’clock.” Perfect plan.

A plan, indeed. Change number one: When I told the three kids I was heading out for a short run and would be back in 25 minutes but that Rick was there if any emergencies arose, they announced they’d just finished the final rehearsal for their hastily choreographed musical revue, “Teenage Conversations.” And since I was their only likely audience member, I couldn’t go running until I’d sat through a performance.

So I sat down at Holly’s desk chair and clapped at the appropriate times as they ran in and out of Holly’s closet, sang, danced and yelled for fifteen minutes or so. “Okay, guys, off for my run!” I then announced. “Back in 25 minutes!”

Change number two: As I was lacing my running shoes, my parents called from next door to say they’d just returned from the slaughterhouse with several hundred pounds of beef – formerly known as Rollie – to unload into the freezer. I headed next door to pitch in, but by that time my sister and her husband were already helping out, so they didn’t really need my participation. I left on my run, and when I got home 25 minutes later started making the kids’ lunch.

“Mary Poppins?” they said dubiously when I told them what we had in mind for the afternoon. “Can we see ‘Tangled’ instead?”

It was fine with me. Change number three: I went to to see where and what times ‘Tangled’ was playing. Plenty of choices. I told Sarah about their request and we decided on Maynard at 4:05, which gave us a couple more hours before we had to go anywhere. “Will you take us up to the playground?” they asked. That too was fine with me; the weather had turned out much less rainy than was forecasted, and some time outdoors would be good for them before sitting down at the movie. Sarah said she’d go too, so we piled into the car.

Change numbers four and five: As soon as we started driving to the playground, Andrew needed to go to the bathroom, so we stopped at the library. No big deal but sitting there waiting for him gave Hannah time to decide she didn’t want to see the movie anymore. No problem, I said, we could drop her and Sarah off at home after our playground visit, and I’d take Holly and Andrew.

By the time we’d stopped at the ATM – the Maynard theater is cash-only – we had barely ten minutes for the playground, but we still thought it was worth it. Any fresh air and exercise at all is a worthwhile investment in a kid’s day, in my opinion. So the kids power-played for ten minutes, then back into the car, where Hannah decided she was willing to join us for the movie after all.

Change number six: when we arrived at the theater, the movie was sold out. (The Maynard theater is an independent cinema and doesn’t do on-line ticket sales.) That’s okay, Holly said; let’s go somewhere and have a treat. Fine with me, Hannah agreed, since she hadn’t really wanted to go anyway. We headed to West Concord and Nashoba Brook Bakery, where we spent a most enjoyable 45 minutes with pastries for the kids and coffee for Sarah and me. The kids found a little table to sit at on their own; Sarah and I found upholstered chairs nearby, and we all relaxed and savored the moment.

As we drove home in the pitch black darkness that signifies five o’clock in late November, I noted that we’d still be in the movie if we’d been able to get tickets. It was kind of nice to be already heading home, though we probably would have had fun at the movie as well. Regardless, the kids had performed a show of their own design in the morning, played for a little while on the playground, and had fun at Nashoba Brook Bakery; I’d fit in my run; Sarah had done an aerobics class and helped my parents unload a beef shipment; we’d had an unexpectedly long and pleasant visit over coffee.

So nothing turned out quite like we’d planned, and yet it was a great post-Thanksgiving day. The kids played together all day, just as they wanted to. No one was disappointed with all the changes, least of all me. What I wanted most out of the day was a chance for all of us to spend some time together. Six or more changes later, that had been accomplished. We’ll do the audience-participation Mary Poppins show some other time, and ‘Tangled’ too. For Friday, what we ended up with was plenty for us.

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