Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dinner with Friends

    I do not "go out on the town" very often.  Meeting up with friends to catch up and enjoy a pint is not a common occurrence.  That is not to say that we, as a family, do not dine out.  My children are quite fond of visiting new restaurants.  They have gone so far as to start their own attempt at a children's version of dining reviews. Their tastes range far and wide and their palates are quite adventurous.  Some old stand-by's that are used as "control" dishes to measure the kitchen of an establishment, and are always ordered, are the calamari, the steamed clams, and the alfredo, preferably with grilled chicken.  A good shrimp cocktail will always bring a smile.
     However, dining out with family in order to spend some quality time over a few choice dishes is not what is on the menu.  To visit with friends, trusted folks with which one can relax, talk frank, laugh, and enjoy company, just may be the perfect dish.  I call many people in my life "friend" but most only wish to pretend at comforting, genuine interaction.  Perhaps I am cynical (if you read this blog even a few times I believe this is glaring), untrusting, slow to let my guard down, but I find most people prove my reservations true.  I do not hold it against them.  I still consider them as close friends, but not close enough for dinner.
     Which leads me here, over the last couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to visit with a friend and his family on several occasions.  We do not see each other nearly as much as we should, yet each time we pick up right where we had left off.  Life, kids, work, all draw us down separate paths and making time to review our adventures is tough to come by, but we always manage to squeeze something into our hectic schedules.  As of late, we have taken to using our time in the pursuit of some of the finer dishes from the more refined restaurants we can find.  This may mean a dent in the pocketbook but an experience well worth the extra hardship.  The different venues and atmospheres, the candlelight and coat checks, the valet parking and origami dining napkins, the fine china and pomp.  We live a little and laugh alot.  I am mightily impressed with his children, older than mine by a generation (his being of college age and mine a year out of middle school) and still happy to share stories of school and work.  They can easily convey their thoughts and engage in conversation with all members of our party, young and old.  I can only hope that my children will mature as well (though it seems by their fine dining mannerisms and conversational ability that they have a good start). 
        The two families have laughed over amazing appetizers, debated politics and applauded achievements over main courses shared around the table, and have reminisced as towering desserts were conquered.  Tales were woven through the foam of craft beers that had traveled from different states and around the corner.  And, in the end, we have hugged and said our "so-longs" as the valet patiently waited.  Maybe a few times a year is all we can afford, both in time and money, but they still are too few.  Life is too short not to try new things.  Time is too little not to laugh.  I cherish the fine things, the finest being their friendship and the lives they share with us.  I hope to see them again soon and tell stories both old and new.

(His daughter is preparing to embark on yet another life journey to help homeless children on the other side of the country.  I would like to wish her a grand adventure, a safe return to tell tales of her journey over yet another dinner, and that she touches other lives the same way she touched our family's (my children's especially).  And I hope her parents are as a proud, if not more so, as I am to know her, to see such a wonderful child grow into a marvelous woman and human being.  You all are truly blessed and have blessed our house.  We will see you all soon but not soon enough.)


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Snowballs and Snowtubes

     And with an icy explosion, just for a brief moment, the world was nothing but stars and numbness.  Then as quick as it came, the moment was gone.  I was brought back to my senses by the frozen trail mapping its way down my back underneath my jacket.  A little sliver of smashed snowball had found its way under my clothes.  I proceeded to engage a method of removal that was part dance and part convulsion and it elicited howls of laughter from the kids.  More snowballs arced their way toward me, trying to hit the same target that had me hopping in the first place. 
     I found that the best way to rectify my wet, cold back was to engage the offenders in an impromptu snowball war.  The day's chores, mucking stalls and throwing bales, would have to wait until my assault was avenged.  Being slightly larger than my attackers I devised a less direct engagement of snow artillery.  I began launching snow in high, rainbow trajectories, carpet-bombing the barnyard.  Children, dogs, horses and goats were running in all directions.  From behind tractors and trees their small projectiles still came flying, along with waves of laughter.  My wife's back, sore and perpetually aching from multiple attempts at repair, suddenly did not hurt so much as her hands released the first snowball thrown in years.  Now I had three "enemies" to engage and all of them found my rainbow attacks hysterical.  It was in short order that the tears on my cheeks from laughing so hard began to freeze in their tracks. 
      Seven days later the package had arrived.  My little attackers could not get through the cardboard fast enough.  The only way I could get anyone to agree to a snowball truce was to promise the purchase of a new snow riding device and it was trapped in the packaging.  Now, I could not in good manly country conscience buy a regular sled, not even a sort of fancy racing sled.  No, I needed the hard-bottomed, inner-tube-inflated, heavy-duty, ATV-towable model.  The air compressor screamed as the air went rushing into the inner tube and breathed life into the "sled".  One kid went running to find the tow strap while the other scrambled for the goggles.  My wife tried to quietly hide but the kids would have none of it.  The two little imps had already convinced Grandpa that today would be the perfect day to remove some of our tree stands from the big field and that he needed to bring his ATV and a tow rope just in case we got stuck in the snowy field.
       Cheering the kids on as Grandpa slung them around the field on their new tube was fun.  Watching them bounce over the ridge and get slammed with snowdrift after snowdrift was cute.  Seeing them slide sideways behind the ATV, gaining speed as they were sling-shotted through the turns was a hoot.  But the greatest moment came watching the kids rolling in the snow on their backs holding their stomachs like some crazy little turtles that had been flipped on their shells and could not stop laughing at their plight.  Their laughter was not only infectious but came in unrelenting waves, as one wave finally began to subside another would come crashing down upon them, catching me up in the process.  All of this craziness was brought on by the sight, and more hysterically, the sound of their mother flying by on the snow tube tethered to Grandpa's ATV.  Her hoots and whoops and ooohs and aahhhs were killing us bystanders.  They seemed to be forced out by each and every bump the tube hit.  They grew louder as the pair neared our viewing position in the field and then faded as the ATV blazed a path to the far side of the field.  Her shrieks of terror when the tube was flung into a turn knocked the kids on to their backs in fits of laughter.  They began rolling when the shrieks turned into oowwww, owwww, owwww, owww, oww as the tube bounced toward us.  Just when we all thought it was over, Grandpa threw the ATV into another snow-banked fishtail, shooting the tube into a tight 180 degree arc at what seemed to be a speed that would not end well.  The shrieks were unnaturally loud when they were right next to you but they were nothing compared to the howls of laughter coming from the kids.
        We learned important lessons over those two weekends.  Some we already knew, others we had forgotten.  Grandpa is evil and it is good.  Snow is wonderful and cold.  Snow tubes are fun to ride.  There is only one thing more fun than watching your kids have fun on a ride, and that is watching them laugh, especially at their mother's terror.  The thought still makes my stomach hurt.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Resolutions and Ruts

    Last year was not one of the most memorable.  Some memories were made, but not as many as should have been.  Most of the days, especially as the year aged, blurred and stagnated.  There were family losses and the angry lash outs that come with tragic loss.  There still probably has not been enough time for the wounds to scar over, even as life marches on.  New weights of responsibility and the commitments such weight brings began to pile up and grind away.  The grind is more mental, especially when most of the ailments are mental (and owned by those around you).  Personality conflicts are hard to address when no one is interested in change.  My time in the woods, my sanctuary, grew short.  The time to recharge and refresh became nonexistent.  And the rut grew.  Yet, as always, small hands can perform big things.  And those hands were armed with snowballs and one good frozen projectile to the back of the head was all that was needed.  In that icy explosion, the world was right again and laughter followed..........