The Art of Improvisation

We got away for a few days last week, and for me one of the highlights was our stop at Rushton’s Beach. The water was perfect, and on a Thursday morning in September we practically had the place to ourselves.

We stayed and had a picnic, where I fed Gideon his mush with a makeshift spoon that I MacGyvered out of a pen and a juice-box straw, because we’d forgotten to bring him any eating utensils. We both ended up wearing a lot of food, but the majority of it made it to his mouth, so I consider that a success.

We even came home with a souvenir: a caterpillar named Wooly Bear. Shawna had wanted all summer to catch a caterpillar so the boys could watch it build a cocoon and come out a butterfly, and here on the last day of our vacation we found one. It’s currently all wrapped up and preparing for metamorphosis in a jar on top of our fridge.

(Side note: The boys insisted right away it was called a Wooly Bear, and Shawna said ‘Why are you calling it that? It’s a caterpillar.’ We got home, did some research on the internet, and lo and behold: we had captured a Salt Marsh Caterpillar, which is a close cousin to—you guessed it—the Woolybear. The moral of the story is sometimes your kids are smarter than you.)

We didn’t set out to go to Rushton’s Beach at all. We left our cottage planning to take the scenic route home and stop at a fossil museum in the Old Brule Schoolhouse. But when we landed in Brule, we learned the museum had moved to Tatamagouche, 15 kilometres down the road, and it didn’t open for another three hours. So we turned around and found a beach.

That’s often how it goes: the most memorable adventures are the ones you aren’t expecting. It’s not easy to be spontaneous with four little kids; you should have seen how long it took to pack for two nights away, and how full our van was when we left. But when we manage to pull it off, it’s usually a lot of fun.

All things considered, I think we do pretty good at making it up on the fly. Our poor fourth child often bears the brunt of our spontaneity. Like the time we went out on a sunny day and forgot to pack a hat for his bald little head. One receiving blanket and a couple of knots later, and he transformed into Pirate Gideon. Problem solved.

Behold Child #4: the one who ends up wearing makeshift inventions.

In some ways we’ve been making it up ever since we found out Gideon existed. He was the wonderful surprise that pushed us into Crazy People territory. But kids are always throwing curveballs at you. When you’ve got four of them, someone is always starting a new Phase, or growing, or teething, or adopting a completely new personality than the one they had yesterday. You learn to roll with it.

And of course life has a funny way of pulling the rug out from under you. One of our biggest unplanned adventures happened last December. Every year we meet Shawna’s parents and her brother’s family in Moncton, about three hours from our home, for a pre-Christmas gathering. Last year I pulled up to the hotel doors, unloaded our minivan, and climbed back in to go park. I turned the ignition and—nothing. As soon as I let the key go, the van shut off. The ignition switch was fried.

We towed the van to the nearest Canadian Tire, but they told us the part had to be ordered directly from the manufacturer. This being the Saturday before Christmas, there was no way they could get it in until at least Tuesday.

After much angst and wringing of hands, we came up with a plan: we’d tow the van as far as our CAA membership would let us, which was a Honda dealership in Truro, only an hour from home. And the Lucas family would take the train.

None of the kids had been on a train before. I hadn’t since I was a child. The trip was way more inconvenient than driving: the train was two hours late, the ride took six hours, we disembarked in a blinding snowstorm and VIA had trouble unloading the luggage for some reason. What should have been a 150-minute van ride took an entire day, and we didn’t get home till well after everyone’s bedtime.

But the kids had an amazing time. Even the babies did great. The boys still talk about it. It was a family adventure that Team Lucas won’t forget for a long time. And it never would have happened if everything went according to plan.

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One response to “The Art of Improvisation

  1. Pingback: Curveballs | The Lucas Adventures·

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