Recently I purposed to spend a day IRL. I have a vibrant online life, but things are pretty stale away from the computer. We planned a trip to the zoo, a run into the library, a friend over for dinner, and baseball practice in the evening. If I'm going to do a real day, it's going to be as chock-full of life as possible.
The first hitch came when the friend, a mutual pal of Teen and Tween, was unable to come over. Her parents had a stomach virus, and while I love my kids' friends, I don't love them that much! Her absence simplified matters, however, as it meant I did not need to clean the house. That kind of disappointment carries a bit of gratification, as well.
Tween, Toddler and I dropped Teen at school. The school is only 10 minutes from the zoo, while it is 30 minutes from home. We planned to have a Dunkin Donuts breakfast, then head to the zoo, but my planning skills are almost as poor as my cooking, and we ended up with a 2 1/2 hour lag before the zoo would open. Even the best toddler can't spend 2 1/2 hours over a bagel (and mine is far from the best toddler), so an hour later we arrived home, having made a quick stop to eat.
After a little down time (if there ever is such a thing with an under-two), we climbed back into the car and began the trip toward the zoo. As we got within a few blocks, the traffic came to a standstill. I casually looked around and counted, in a single block span, twelve school buses ahead of us. Aggravation rose in me; I detest crowds. I shared the number of buses with Tween. He must have even more optimism than I, because he immediately looked behind us and remarked that at least we were ahead of two other buses. Sigh.
We slowly inched closer to the entrance. When we were within sight of the gate, three cars back, in fact, the parking lot workers began to wave people away. Incredibly, there were no more parking spaces available in the lot!
Our zoo is surrounded by a large public park. We decided to circle the park and find a spot there. There were no parking spaces in the park, either! Well, to be absolutely truthful, there was one. It required backing down a one-way drive on a hill (did I mention that I drive stick?). Its location was less than ideal. In fact, I didn't know its location. My sense of direction is almost as poor as my planning ability. I had no idea where the zoo was in relation to the parking spot, and I was unwilling to walk an unknown distance to the zoo where I would walk all day and then have to walk back to the car.
I shared the disappointing news with my son, and we rounded the park to its exit. We followed our carefully Mapquested directions until we reached a street that was closed. No detour - just orange cones and confusion. My poor sense of direction kicked in, and soon we were hopelessly lost.
As I frantically searched for any familiar landmark, my son enjoyed the view from his window. Suddenly he saw a sign. The <Local> History Museum And Library was just ahead. He wondered if we could go there instead. "Sounds really, really boring," I thought. My optimism had abandoned me somewhere in the traffic for the parking lot. When trying to enjoy real life, though, it's best not to depress the folks you're spending it with. I dutifully followed the signs and we were soon parked in front of a small building designed to resemble the Parthenon (only smaller, of course). I noted, regretfully, that the museum was open, so we climbed the steps and entered.
We paid the very small admission fee to the clerk at the gift shop and made our way into the main part of the museum.Tween immediately spied a sign that said "Trains Downstairs." My son is a huge railway fan, and has been since he was 18 months old, so we headed down. I expected a cheesy replica of a train station and a disappointed son. Instead we hit pay dirt - a full HO scale layout built to represent various sites of local history, complete with explanatory text and black and white photos. Tween was in heaven! As we walked around the table, a young man entered and offered to turn the track on for us. We examined the steam engines and their cars, and chatted excitedly about the detailed layout.
After nearly an hour, we thanked the man and left the room. I cautioned my son to be careful - no other patrons had been in the train room with us, and he'd gotten a little frisky with all the excitement, so I wanted to make him aware that there would be others in the museum and that he should be courteous.
I was mistaken, though. There were no other patrons. The entire museum (small though it was) was ours for the day. We looked at displays, read plaques, let Toddler run around. We did what we wanted when we wanted to, without worrying about squeezing between strangers or taking too long at something. Take that, crowded zoo!
We spent a little more than three hours at the museum, then asked for directions and made our way to Teen's school in time to pick her up. We ran to the library, had dinner, and went to baseball practice as planned.
Real life was more disappointing, aggravating, surprising, and satisfying than I expected!