When I was about nine-years-old my dad showed up at school one afternoon. He was about an hour early when he came to pick me and my little sister up.
"Where are we going, Daddy?" We both asked him.
"Well," he said as he held our hands, guiding us into the parking lot. "I have some things I need to drop off in Ashland and I knew we wouldn't get back in time for you girls so we thought we'd come pick you up from school."
Sure enough, Mom was in the front seat of our silver Honda Civic waiting for the three of us. This was a fun adventure for our little family. To drive all the way from Trail to Ashland would take the better part of an hour, but we didn't care. We chattered all the way as Daddy drove the car. It wasn't until we past the second exit that my mom realized we hadn't stopped yet.
"Rick, you just past the exit. Isn't that the one we were supposed to take?" She asked.
"Oh, well, I just thought that since we were headed this way that we would go to Disneyland too," he said.
"What?!?" We all screamed.
"You're kidding me?"
"What about our clothes?"
"Look in the back."
My sister, Kelly, and I whipped around and looked in the back of the car. In the back was a blanket and two big lumps under it. We yanked the blanket off and there sat our luggage. We went back to screaming with joy. Daddy had just given us the surprise of our little lives. We were going to Disneyland!
Do you know what's funny about that memory? I have forgotten much of that trip EXCEPT for the very beginning. I will always remember that day.
As a mom I long to recreate that memory with my own children, but times are tough right now as it is with everyone. I was reminiscing about this memory when I realized what made it so grand to go to Disneyland. Other then the fact that it's the happiest place on earth, it was also that it was a surprise.
I sometimes forget that the seemingly insignificant things in my mind can be very significant in my children's lives.
For example, another favorite memory was when we went to the Phil's Frosty, an ice cream shop, after dinner. We didn't do it often, but when we did it was always a sweet time on hot Summer evenings. There was also the times my mom and dad would pack for us girls and after church on Wednesday nights we would get the car and instead of driving home we would head south to Gramie and Papa's house in Santa Cruz. One summer evening when the church was in the process of being built we spent the night there. There was carpet on the flooring and doors, but no windows. We lived in a house that had no air conditioning and I think Mom and Dad were tired of sleeping in the sticky heat. That evening Mom or Dad had snuck sleeping bags into the hatch-back before we left for church. After the last member left they pulled out our bags and surprised us with an impromptu camp out. The wind picked up throughout the night and kept us cool as we slept soundly, together in one room.
As a little girl I didn't know money was scarce. Disneyland was a gift. There was no way we could have done that on my dad's income. Looking back now I realize how creative my parents were with what we did as a family. What we did was memorable because we were altogether as a family, making memories with what we were given.
I am comforted to know that the 'cheap' things we did are some of my most favorite memories and perhaps my children will remember those 'cheap' things we do with them. But I am also challenged in the ways I spend time with my children. I get so caught up in the things I want to do that involve money, but they would just as soon go to the park and throw a baseball to each other. I asked myself what if it isn't the big things in life that matter? What if its the small, daily adventures that will be cemented into their memories?
I still hold onto that dream of going to Disneyland with my children. I still desire to take a week trip to Hawaii with my hubby. Those are both fine dreams. But today I watched my children scream joyfully as they ran through the sprinklers at the local water park. I laughed as they zigzagged around the dumping water pails and then run back to the playground. It hit me, as it often does, how fast the kids were growing. In only a few short years they will be too old for these childish, yet wonderful, games. I've been married 13 short years. In another 13 years my baby girl will be 19 years old. Now I'm starting to feel old!
It's very possible that in the next fifteen to twenty years I could be sitting on that same park bench, watching my grandchild run through sprinklers. It hit me today that this was a sweet time in my life. Sure, life is stressful with bills, scheduling conflicts, and getting the kids to school on time. And that's on a good day!
Live is also short. Kids grow up. Its that whole 'circle of life' thing we were taught in The Lion King. I want to make memories with the time I have now. Maybe someday we can go to Disneyland as a family. Maybe not. What's important isn't where we go, but what we do as a family. Being together with our kids while they still want us around. It's a walk around the neighborhood with Logan, a discussion with Garrett about heroes, It's a drive to Walmart with Trevor, or it's playing dress-up with Ellainna. These are the days to enjoy them. These are the memories I will treasure in my heart always.