When I was a child, we didn’t travel very often. I didn’t even board a plane until I was 11 years old. We would go to cabins in the woods for a couple nights or so, but they were always within a few hours of home. My dad and mom worked very hard to support our family, but money for vacations was a very lofty concept. I remember day road trips to Rochester or Red Wing and occasionally Duluth or Brainerd. But what I remember most is the adventures that we would have.
My dad would rise early to accomplish everything that he needed to each day. He wouldn’t eat breakfast right away, but dressed and rushed to complete his to do list. I remember thinking that my dad was the busiest person in the world. Sleep, work, eat, get stuff done at home, repeat. He was always on the go. He rarely sat down and just relaxed. He sometimes would watch tv with us in the evenings. But mostly, he would work in his shop in the basement. Tinkering with this and that, I wasn’t really sure what he did down there. I sometimes made up stories that he was creating a time machine or designing an invention so amazing he would change the world.
On Saturday or Sunday afternoons when all of my dad’s work was completed, he would bathe, change his clothes eat a meal and rally the troops, which were my sister Angie and I. Angie was a very accomplished dancer and she would often be busy with extra practices, performances or competitions on the weekends. But when she was home, we both looked forward to what the day would bring. What adventure my dad would create.
Sometimes we discovered a new section of woods that was waiting for us to explore. I would hear a little stream running nearby or my dad would see tracks and point them out. Angie would hear a bird or an owl and ask which one made that sound. We engaged our senses as we explored the amazing world around us.
When I was 9, a small body of water flooded in the woods when the snow melted. It created a vast pond four times the original size. My dad had believed that a natural spring could be found underneath and that it continued to feed this now almost lake sized body of water. It took almost the entire summer for the water to seep into the earth and for this now lake to recede back to its original pond size. And what the waters left behind! Yes, there were fish and polished stones. But the ornamental grasses that eventually dried out. They were so beautiful I could hardly stand it. Once dry, they would bend and sway in the slight breeze. They would wave at us as we passed by. The grasses made me wish I possessed artistic talent so that I could paint them and capture even a glimpse of their beauty. I asked my dad if we could bring some home to mom so she could see them too. Dad said that he didn’t think they would last very long but that we could. As he went to open his pocket knife to cut the stalks, I impulsively grabbed a handful of them and tried to pull them from dirt. They firmly held their ground. I lost my grip and my balance at the same time and the stalks sliced up the palms of my hands. I gasped and held my hands close to my chest. I winced my eyes shut and took a few deep breaths. My dad rushed to me, took my hands and pulled me towards the edge of the water. He quickly knelt and pulled me to the muddy ground with him. As he pried my hands open, The tears started to pour down my face. I saw the blood release into the water.
My dad held my hands in the water for what seemed like forever. He repeated the same things to me over and over again. You are okay. I know it hurts. Just a little blood. You are going to be fine. Once the blood flowing into the water decreased, my dad let go of my hands and fished in one of his many pockets for a bandana. He removed my hands from the water and gently patted them dry. He ripped the bandana in half and gingerly tied up both of my hands. He smiled, kissed each of my hands and stood. I remained kneeling in the mud next to pond and looked up at him. When my dad realized I wasn’t moving on my own accord, he placed his hands under my arms and hoisted me to a standing position. I wiped the last of my tears with back of hand and saw my sister standing maybe 10 feet away. She had remained silent the entire time. Watching, observing and not saying a word. Angie was either amazed at my dad's innate ability to take care of any given situation or she was baffled at my stupidity and childish impulsivity.
I don’t remember much about the rest of that day. I remember the beautiful grasses, the desire to show my mom the grasses, the pain and the blood, my dad’s take charge attitude and my sisters silence. But what I do remember was when my sister and I took the lead and headed home, I turned around and saw my father. He was kneeling on his left knee, pocket knife open in his hand and he was carefully cutting the stalks. Two maybe three at time. He put his thin glove back on his hand and picked up the beautiful array of grasses. He stood and proceeded in our direction. My dad had the grasses in his hand and was prepared to bring them home. He wanted to gift them to my mom per my request so that she too could enjoy them, even if only for a short time.
These are the daily adventures that I remember. These brief glimpses are the memories that I hold dear. I remember more of the day to day happenings than the grandiose trips or experiences. I remember laughter. I remember trying new foods and working together in the yard and garden. I remember sitting at the dining room table with friends and family an enjoying each others company. I remember the simple, mundane, perfection. That is what made the biggest impression on me. The time that was spent with my loved ones. The conversations that we had and the joy that got to experience together. I remember how I was cared for, encouraged, nurtured and loved. And those memories are the best ones of all.
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