Friday, August 17, 2007

Stepping Back Into the Past

Yesterday afternoon our three youngest kids and I set out for one of the summer's final Fletcher Family Friday Fun Day experiences. We traveled back to historic Fort Ridgely, where we visited earlier this summer, but this time to stay in the Farm House overnight and do some hiking during daylight hours (last time it was so unbearably hot we didn't do any hiking). I hate to say this (because I would kind of like to keep the secret to myself, in case we want to return there again and have a similar experience), but our overnight in the Farm House was $50 well spent.

The location is about a mile or so north of the main historic site and park area, where most camping sites are located, and we had the entire area where we were completely to ourselves. Although there are campsites located near the Farm House, no one was camping there last night. So, even though we had to walk 500 feet to the nearest running water and bathrooms with modern facilities (including showers), we had it all to ourselves. The House itself is divided into three areas, a dining area (plenty of room for up to 8 people at the table), a kitchen of sort (no running water, of course, but a microwave and dorm size refrigerator) with a nice counter area and a couple of comfortable chairs, and a sleeping area with three double-size beds. (There's even an air conditioning unit in the bedroom area, although it was so pleasant last night we didn't need to use it).

While I had to contend with the very typical sibling squabbling between the two youngest boys (an almost continual banter punctuated with shrieks and occasional physical encounters), our youngest daughter is nearly always enjoyable to be with. She and I hiked a while last night together, and she explained to me that she is "really getting into this sistering stuff," which I affirmed, because both Tony and Dominyk can benefit from a patient sister, that's for sure.

On the way back home this morning we stopped by another historic site, the Harkin General Store, where the kids got to hear about what it was like to purchase items at a store in the 1870s in pioneering Minnesota. Our interpretive guide for the visit was engaging, although Dominyk's idiosyncracies made all of us shudder with irritation. Dominyk's special needs do not allow him to understand how others might misunderstand what he is saying, so when we walked by the area in the store that sold tobacco, he had to report that he and his brother have smoked twelve cigarettes in the grove. I'm not sure how much truth there is to this assertion, but Dominyk does not have the social sophistication to understand how such a report to a stranger is inappropriate. The guide took it in good spirits and simply said, "Well, I'll leave that you and your dad to figure out." Part of the issue may also be that I neglected to bring with us his morning medication, so I guess I have to bear the responsibility for his embarrassing outbursts.

We talked on the way home about the change in lives over the past 130+ years. The trip from Harkin General Store to our home today took us about 45 minutes, whereas in 1870 the trip would have a three-day adventure. While I also enjoy stepping back into the past, I never tire of returning to the benefits of 2007, with my laptop, the internet and technological advance. Moments spent close to nature (as in last night's camping trip) with children is something I hope my kids remember for a long time as a positive thing. (I really hope their memories focus on the positives and not the constant redirection and occasional frustration on my part in orchestrating these kinds of events).

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