Don’t tell my law partners, but I have been a master over the years of sometimes playing hooky in the middle of the week. It was most often unplanned and last minute during a regular weekday when I decided I was caught up on my work, and nothing would suffer if the work was put on hold. I would skip work and take the kids to the zoo, the Science Museum, a movie or the Mall of America. They were either in day care and I would take them out, or it was a holiday from school, or summer vacation and they had nothing better to do. Those days were some of the best. I couldn’t give them much warning because sometimes things changed at work and I could not leave, so since I did not want to disappoint them, I would not tell them until I was very sure that we were going. They were even more excited by the surprise.
On those days I would call or simply show up and say I have off, let’s go and do something fun! These spontaneous outings taught them to be flexible and go with the flow. Now as adults they are still very good at going with the flow and dealing with changing plans or unexpected fun that arises. All of them are always up for an adventure. I’d pack a lunch for us or more often eat out. We loaded into the Yukon, or if I had not planned ahead well enough in advance, we’d be stuck with my commuter car since Joe usually drove the family Yukon to work. In that case I would cram them all into my little car and off we went.
The thing I remember best is that they were always so grateful for the adventure. They never complained and seemed to be on their best behavior. I suspect that even as very young children they knew there was something special about the unexpected middle of the week adventures. We had plenty of fun as a family on the weekends, but this was different. It was unexpected and exciting.
Recently I was reminded of one of those fun days as my kids fondly reminisced about a particularly memorable middle of the week excursion. Now that they are in their twenties and have lives of their own, I don’t get to play hooky and leave work to do fun things with them. I miss that, but I love it when they visit and I am particularly happy when they remember the good times we have had together. The event they remember was a trip to the Mall of America, when the kids were fairly young, maybe 10 years old to early teens.
I picked them up and I told them we were going to the Mall of America to ride the rides at Camp
Snoopy and have some lunch. It had been a particularly terrible couple of weeks at work, with one hearing after another and my stress level was through the roof. I did not tell them that, but knowing kids they probably knew more than I gave them credit for. We headed off and I bought them all wrist bands so we could ride as many of the rides as we wanted.
We did most of the rides that day, but the one that they remember best was the Mine Ride. It was one of those rides that had a large screen playing a fairly short movie in front of you and the seats move as if you are part of the movie, and it is really loud for effect. We had been there before, but they changed up the movie every so often so it was still new to us. The movie they played that day was called Crescendo. It had music notes and a picture of a piano on the advertisement poster outside the ride, and it looked like an odd subject for the mine ride which usually featured a mine car and small tracks on the screen to make it feel as if you were riding into a mine shaft really fast and jerky for affect. We took our seats as usual expecting a usual ride.
The movie started with a man in a truck on what appeared to be the streets of San Francisco, with its winding roads and steep hills. The man backed up to a baby Grand Piano and used a long chain to connect it to the back of his truck. Before he took off a tall, thin gentleman in a tuxedo and tails, who looked to be ready for a concert at Carnegie Hall, came out, bowed and took his place ceremoniously on the piano bench, attached to the piano, and he began to play in the middle of a street. The piano was on wheels, and as the truck took off it pulled the piano. As he played louder and louder the truck went faster and faster, hence the Crescendo name.
When he went around corners the piano flew wide around the turns and almost hit other vehicles and just missed panes of glass carried through the street. It was one of the best comedy sequences I have ever seen. The music was classical music, and as the truck drove faster the camera would pan onto the pianist’s face, one minute concentrating on the music and the next frightened as his piano veered towards train tracks, narrowly missing being crushed by fast moving train cars. I could not help but laugh harder and harder.
His music flowed with the crazy fast driving, and as we watched our own chairs jolted and moved as if we were riding on the piano with him, and I could not stop laughing. It was not an, oh I am amused laugh, but a belly aching loud laugh, that everyone in the theater could hear. I think my kids were actually a little embarrassed and I am sure that some of the people in that Mine ride probably thought I had been drinking in the middle of the day, because the laugh was so continuous and ridiculous. I don’t know why that hit me as so funny. As we left the theatre, we had even more fun as the kids were poking fun at me for laughing so loud and hard and how the other people probably did think I was drunk.
Thinking back on it, it still makes me smile. I think it was the slap stick comedy of it mixed with the beautiful classical music that fit each part of the pianist’s ride to a T, and the facial expressions on the pianist’s face as he would, time after time narrowly escape injury and death.
The fact that our own seats shook, rolled and rocked each time his piano went around corners and stopped suddenly, helped with the effect I am sure, but another part of my pure joy may have been the circumstance itself. Here we were on a normal weekday when my kids would have been at home, and we were having such a great time, eating fun food and riding the rides together. We were enjoying each others’ company instead of working the day away. We have plenty of those days in our life time. To experience the pure joy of spending time together was the crescendo of my week, especially as a nice break to the stress of work life.
I am so glad I had that opportunity to be able to spend that time with the kids in unexpected adventures. It was fun for all of us and yet another reminder in the middle of work stress of what is important in life. When I think back on it, I don’t remember any of those things that made me stressed that week, but I do remember a random weekday spent with my kids laughing so hard that my sides hurt and I now have the joy of reminiscing about the fun we had, so many years ago. It is easy to say we need to remember what is important in life, but we need to ensure that our most memorable, loud and intense memories and moments are those shared with family. Like the crescendo in a fine piece of music our best moments in life should be loud, intense and memorable.