Written March 24th, 2013
We just returned from a week-long trip to San Diego and Los Angeles for spring break and went from 75 degrees and sunshine to 35 degrees and snow. Our bodies had started to think it truly was spring and relished the welcomed warmth on our skin. And then, this morning, I scraped ice off the windshield for ten minutes. Blech. An hour later I read an essay by G.K. Chesterton about re-thinking inconveniences. The best quote, which I’ll be writing on a sticky pad and placing on my kitchen window to glance at as I do the dishes, is this: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. And inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” From a flood in his neighborhood in London to chasing a hat, he turns each annoyance on it’s head and looks at it from the other side. From the perspective of a child at one point…
For instance, we often hear grown-up people complaining of having to hang about a railway
station and wait for a train. Did you ever hear a small boy complain of having to hang about a
railway station and wait for a train? No; for to him to be inside a railway station is to be inside a
cavern of wonder and a palace of poetical pleasures. Because to him the red light and the green
light on the signal are like a new sun and a new moon. Because to him when the wooden arm of
the signal falls down suddenly, it is as if a great king had thrown down his staff as a signal and
started a shrieking tournament of trains. I myself am of the little boys’ habit in this matter. (On
Running After One’s Hat)
Marc and I should have read this essay before we left. We could have used the kids’ perspective in two long days at Legoland, or in our five-hour rush-hour trip from San Diego to Pasadena, or when Mae puked all over herself just before we reached our friends’ house but after we’d eaten at In-N-Out. Actually, I’m not sure how to make that an adventure. She was miserable and thrown-up hamburger is just gross.
Marc and I are pretty good at going with the flow. We deal well with the inevitable craziness and not-as-we-planned-it ways of a family vacation. And of life in general. After three kids, we let most inconveniences roll off our backs, but I can’t say we’ve actually reached the point that we enjoy them. That we look at what would generally be frustrating events as adventures. We can get over them quickly, but things like leaving our very expensive train passes on the Shinkansen in Japan, or losing Marc’s wedding ring in central California, or getting lost from one another at an enormous outdoor market in Bangkok (and me trying to plan how I would get home to America without my presumedly dead husband) – these things did not fill us with child-like wonder. They made us argue. And freak out.
I remember driving through a blizzard to my grandparents’ house at Thanksgiving when I was five or six years old. We got stuck in a snow drift at nightfall, and my dad had to walk to the nearest house (not so near in rural Nebraska) for help. My brother and I were understandably nervous, snuggled up in a blanket with Mom. “This is an adventure!” she said with enthusiasm. “Oh,” I thought. “I guess it is.” And then it was. I don’t remember it as scary. I remember it as exciting. I’m sure we got cold, I don’t remember how we got out, and my poor dad probably didn’t think it was thrilling, but it sticks in my mind as a fun experience from childhood. Because my mom knew to make it that way.
When we were getting ready to leave L.A. Luke said he wanted to live in California. Legoland had a great deal to do with it, but also the weather, the excitement of being somewhere new, the ocean, our friends’ kids he met, and seeing the place he was born. The whole thing was an adventure for him. Southern California is an inconvenient place – the traffic, the smog, the amount of people, the cost of living, the traffic. But he didn’t see those things. Or he did and just looked at them with a kid’s eyes. He and Lily have a game they play in the car imagining they are racing all the others on the road (yep, G.K. Chesterton was right) that they played on our trip, too. It was just a bigger race track. A super slow one at times, but that didn’t ruin the experience for them. If you ask me what I remember most from the trip, it’s the bad cold we all caught, the puking, the traffic, and then the fun stuff. But if you ask the kids, it’s only the fun. They had a grand adventure. I could learn a few things from my children and G.K. Chesterton about rightly considering inconveniences. Life would be a lot more exciting if I did.