“Well, you would be headed in the right direction if we were open today,” the security guard cheerfully informed me, “but today’s a holiday.”
My random adventure with the kids was off to a shaky start. I had to think fast. Yesterday, when I posed the idea of an adventure, both children announced that there was nothing new to see in our city. When I suggested they join me in eleven eleven list item # 6—fly a kite on the beach—they scoffed, claiming kite flying doesn’t qualify as an adventure. Tough crowd.
Undaunted, I asked them, over dinner, to each write down three things about which they wanted learn more. “Oh, no, research,” one child groaned, while the other dutifully scrambled for a library card.
“Who said anything about reading,” I demanded, mentally scrapping the library from my plans.
I used the kids’ reported interests—ranging from playing the guitar to native American history—as inspiration for some local, low-cost experiences. A quick internet search revealed a free museum with impressive Native American holdings less than 2 miles from our front door. Hidden within the campus of Hampton University—an instructional institution with which we are largely unfamiliar—the museum qualified as both something new to see and a non-print source of interest. Bingo!
But here we were, turned away at the gate, victims of some holiday of which we were not privy.
I was doubly surprised by the holiday angle, since I’d already scoured my mental database to identify the reason why both my kids and I were all off on the same day. In former times, those sweet days when all three of our lives included only one small school where I taught and they learned, we’d grown accustomed to having an entire week off together each spring. We’d usually tackle some project—one year we painted my daughter’s room, another year mine—and we’d scrub the kitchen floor, all the while listening to a carefully selected book on CD. In the afternoons, we’d visit parks and friends and libraries—good times that, this year, must be compressed into a single day, now that the three of us are all at different schools, each with a different spring break.
Although I’ll confess to being slightly stymied by the museum’s closure, I recovered quickly, dashing into another museum around the corner (we’re loaded with ‘em here, what with all water, European colonization, and all) arming myself with tourist brochures, all of which highlighted the merits of places the kids have already been, none offering a single new lead.
My big break came in the form of a serendipitous parking place in front of a storefront sporting a British flag. Recalling the upset that ensued last spring when the children discovered their Welsh roots, I herded them into the store in hopes of helping them connect with their newfound heritage.
I knew I struck gold when the friendly lilt of a British accent greeted us at the door. The shop owner pulled out maps, recalling tales and recounting customs. The concept of tartans, plaid patterns worn by family groups, totally captivated the children to the extent that they went home and researched theirs.
We stocked up on British junk food for the afternoon—sodas and chips of unique flavour—and continued on to our next stop, involving an elderly guitar—a weathered electric cast off abandoned by my nephew—about which there has been much recent ado. Just that morning, my son had been strumming its 5 poorly tuned strings as it hung precariously from his neck by a broken leather belt sporting several dozen bent staples.
We drove to a cluttered but well-stocked guitar shop. You know the kind—dark and a little dated, managed by a Woodstock-era hippie strumming out peace and love on a battered acoustic. He replaced the missing string, gave the old clunker a good prognosis (“might even be a collector’s item someday, if you hold onto it”), and infused the kids with a good dose of fascinated inspiration. Today, they’ve got it plugged into some old stereo equipment and were last seen with a chord chart and some slightly roughed-up fingertips.
Although a second glance at the calendar still didn’t corroborate the security guard’s holiday story, I still think I might side with him on this one. Although we may well be among the select few who knew, the day certainly proved itself worthy of special commemoration.