It was an adventurous summer. I mean, we saw the Cahokia Mounds. For real! With the kids! What kid wouldn’t be enthralled by the sight of a large mound and the knowledge that, hundreds of years ago, people (though we don’t really know who) built that mound (for unknown purposes) and lived near them—until they gradually moved away (for unknown reasons)? How exciting!
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This summer everything seemed exciting. To me, at least. This summer marks a transition. My younger daughter, as of this very week, is in school ALL DAY. For the first time in nearly ten years, I get to live like a quasi-full-time adult. Most of the time, at least. Which is way more than none of the time, so I will try not to complain about the occasional half days at school.
But back to the kids. It was an exciting summer for them too. Did I mention the Cahokia Mounds? I did? You mean I didn’t save that for the big, killer finish? Oh, well. The summer started with a family reunion in Phoenix. In June. Just when you want to be in Phoenix. Seriously. The hotel fares in June there are terrific.
And we were just a few hours’ drive from the Grand Canyon, which none of us had ever seen except from an airplane. So, naturally, we thought it would be worth seeing from—you guessed it—an airplane.
Not the jumbo jet kind we were used to. The little kind, where you get to see everything up close, instead of at the observation rail with everyone else. It was a splurge idea, to offset the hotel savings.
And it made me wish we were back at the observation rail with everyone else. Because guess what! The Grand Canyon is windy. And the four of us, who never ever get airsick in the usual flyover plane, were all clutching desperately to our airsick bags. Someday, though, when I have the stomach to look at the pictures we blindly took, I’m sure I will think it was beautiful.
Back in Illinois, we enjoyed big adventure as well. Make that Big Adventure-on-a-Stick, because we spent a couple days at the State Fair. The kids went on all the rides they were tall enough to be allowed on. And, thanks to their Grand Canyon training, they didn’t get sick. That even made me brave enough to join Lucy on the Tilt-a-Whirl. And I didn’t get sick either! Unless you count turning green and not being able to look at food for a couple hours being sick.
After a quick visit to a friend’s farm (where playing with sparklers was the big thrill), we headed toward the Cahokia Mounds, where we stopped just long enough to see the Gateway Arch in St. Louis from the top of the tallest mound. Minutes later, we were actually in St. Louis.
Special Parent Alert! Read this next paragraph very carefully.
If you ever find yourself with kids and a few hours on your hands, within 100 miles of St. Louis, you must—repeat, must—visit the City Museum in St. Louis. It’s more of an indoor-outdoor play place than a museum. Except that description doesn’t do it much justice. It’s an enormous old industrial building that has been adapted by some overgrown kids with waaaaaaay too much time and money—and imagination—on their hands. It’s more magical than Hogwarts. Or, do you remember the wacky maze-like tunnels from the set of the movie “Hugo”? Well, they are lame in comparison to the City Museum. Lame! Go online, look at pictures, but know that they don’t even scratch the surface of how cool this place really is. And I’m not even getting paid by the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce for saying this.
Believe it or not, however, there was something even better that happened to the kids this summer. Kids. Other kids. For the first year ever, there were other kids on the block to run around and play with. They swarmed from house to house, in and out of yards. A free-range pack with no agenda but to have fun. Together.
The best part of summer vacation, then, was simply being at home.
That’s something I had always dreamed of for my kids. And something they’ll always remember. Even if they forget the Cahokia Mounds.