You Never Know Unless You Try

We are heading up to Wisconsin for the weekend, or as my sister Marney likes to call it, the Happy Place.  This will be a very rare Fall trip to the Happy Place, and I really don’t know why we don’t go in the Fall more often.  There will be no swimming at the back of the lake, but my dad already told me there were plenty of cold beverages left over from the summer.  The Fall colors should be perfect, and the cool weather will make for a great bonfire, someplace to sit and enjoy a few of those cool beverages.  I just have to remember not to play the rhyming game with Alex after a few of those beverages.  I am planning to bring one of the final zucchini from the garden, and I will be frying some up for my mom this time.  We are also planning to do something that we have never done before, in all the years we have been going up there.  We are going to go apple picking.

This was Maureen’s idea, and I have no idea why we never thought of it before.  Like I said, we don’t seem to make too many Fall trips up there, so I guess no-one ever looked into Fall activities.  It took someone with a fresh look at thing to figure it out.  This is one of the truly great things about having brought Maureen into my kids lives.  Because of her background as a librarian, she often come up with the best idea’s for activities for the kids.  Two winters ago she found a children’s workshop where kids were invited to make films on a portable digital camera.  I have to admit that when she first mentioned it to me I kind of shrugged it off, but she mentioned it several times and showed me how she could register them online.  I believe it was late February or early March, and it was a cold day having  just snowed the night before, and the idea of driving downtown on a Sunday morning was the last thing I really wanted to do.  In my head, the whole thing had failure written all over it.  I came dangerously close to calling the whole thing off, and I don’t think the kids would have really minded. 

Maureen was working that day at the United Center, one of those long all day events, probably the winter ice show.  Somewhat sluggishly, I bundled the kids and myself up and off we headed to Millenium Park.  We were supposed to meet the group at the now famous Bean sculpture, or as it is properly called Cloud Gate.  For some reason, there was no street parking anywhere that day, and I ended up parking in a garage a few blocks away.  As we walked through the slush on our way to the park, the wind picked up a little and I grumbled to myself for lugging everyone out on this miserable day.  Molly was excited to be out and about, but Alex complained the whole way.  “It’s too cold.  Why are we doing this?  Is this going to take long?”  He seemed to br vocalizing everything I was thinking. 

As we arrived at the park,the clouds started to pass and the sun started to shine.  Because of the weather there were very few people around, just a few workmen busy clearing the wet heavy snow from around the sculpture.  We didn’t see any thing that looked like a group of people getting ready to conduct a workshop for kids.  The three of us wandered over to the Bean.  The polished, curved surface had the effect of a House of Mirrors.  Suddenly the smiles started.  From different angles we were tall or small, skinny or fat, upside down or split in two.  From under the Bean, in the direct center of the sculpture, there was a sort of infinity effect.  Looking straight up, our image reflected off itself like a kaleidoscope and multiple reflections seem to go on forever.

After playing for a while, I took another look around, but still nothing.  It looked like the event was not going to happen, but at least the day wasn’t a total loss.  We had our fun with the Bean.  I was just about to give up and head home when we spotted a group of people coming our way, mylar animal balloons floating in the air behind them.  Our group had arrived.  They quickly set up a table and portable tent, and I realized a crowd of kids had started to gather around them.  It seemed that while we were playing with our images, other participants who had also registered online had also arrived.  The group running the event were art students from Columbia College.  The head of the group was a flamboyant older woman who reminded me a lot of Edna Garrett, only without the red hair.  They gathered up all the kids and gave them a crash course in how to use the tiny digital cameras, while all the dads and moms had to fill out forms giving the student’s permission to post the kids movies on a website.  After that, Mrs. Garrett explained to the kids that they were going to be given a list of words, and they were to explore all of Millenium Park to film little vignettes of what they thought best expressed the words on their list.  The entire project could only be up to three minutes long.  The words were descriptive words like humorous, ballance, and circular.  I belive it was ten words total.  After filming for each of the kids an opening segment where they stated their first names and age, they both ran off to film their movies.  All of the clouds from earlier in the day had cleared out, and the day was getting warm.  The snow that had collected on the top of the Bean was sliding down the shinny sculpture and splashing with a loud plop on the pavement below.  The kids were having a great time and what I anticipated was going to be a miserable day, had turned into a great afternoon.

Neither of the kids won the contest, but they had a good time watching their films online.  We had a great day and they had something to talk about to friends and family.  Having someone new looking in on us, sent our day in a direction we would never have anticipated.  And so now we are going apple picking this weekend.  Molly is all excited, and Alex is grumbling again.  But this time I am more optimistic.  Maureen has added a new dimension to our lives and I know the kids appreciate it.  From the beginning, we alway tried to express to the kids that Maureen  was not going to replace their mother, but become an addition to our half of their family.  She has shown them love and guidance, and more importantly, become something very special to them.  A friend.

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