Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Grand Day Out

Last weekend, I sprang it on Eric that I wanted to go somewhere. Anywhere would be nice, but that particular day I had Point Beach in mind. He doesn't like it when I spring trips on him. Eric needs to make things, and he plans on making things most weekends. I am not a good planner, however. I am more of a spontaneous planner. And I need to go places.

We decided to go, but Eric would finish something first. But by the time he finished, it was rather late for a day-trip of that length. So – shudder – we planned to go on Wednesday instead. And we did.

Getting out the door proved challenging. We kept forgetting things. We left three times. And the trip took several detours around Fond du Lac, but that was OK, because we found a cool spot in town – a park across from Lake Winnebago with a merry-go-round, a little train, a petting zoo, bumper boats. I'm surprised my dad would have never taken me here. Maybe he did and I don't remember. Or maybe he was too busy chasing dead relatives and his next brandy. Regardless, I don't remember seeing it before, but when Kelsey saw it, she wanted to go. So we did.

Kayleigh felt a little weird going on the train. She's at that age where doing little kid things is embarrassing.

It was a fine little distraction. But off we went again.

Next stop was High Cliff State Park. I remember going here once for about five minutes. My dad and I met my uncle, his gal pal, and my aunt and uncle for a weekend when I was about 11. We did lots of driving, and High Cliff was one of our many stops. We got to get out long enough to look at the lime kiln ruins and that was about it. Apparently my rotund uncle couldn't do much walking. It sucked.

We did some walking on Wednesday, though. Not a lot, but enough. The park overlooks Lake Winnebago. There are some effigy mounds, the ruins, an observation tower, and a statue of Red Bird, a Ho-Chunk (still called Winnebago at the time the statue was erected) chief. The park is built on the lake as well as in and on limestone cliffs.

I've never been very impressed with Lake Winnebago. It's big, and that's about all you can say for it. It's so dirty. Gack. My dad told me his dad got drunk and drove their Model A into it once. Or maybe that was a friend of theirs. The stories run together, and I haven't heard them since I was little.

Next stop was visiting my dad. It made me sad. Before we left home, I took a penny from the year Clint died out of Clint's Coca Cola glass to take along. At the cemetery, I found a spot by my dad's stone and dug up a little dirt. I pushed the penny down as far as I could, then covered it up again. I know it seems a little silly, but I wanted them to be able to share something. They had a difficult relationship, but they loved each other in a desperate, ferocious, longing way.

We cleaned up some old flowers and faded flags. I stood there and cried, trying not to. My family was sweet to me. Kelsey never got to meet my dad, but she likes to hear about him and look at his photos. Kayleigh has one strong memory of him stepping on her foot and apologizing. She was 19 months old when he died. She adored him, and he adored her. She called him Baba, and he was easily her favorite grandparent. She used to shove my mom out of the way to get to him.

She was very upset when he died. She just didn't understand death at such a young age. My family is not one for really pouring out their emotions, either. After he died, people didn't want to talk much about it. When she asked where he was, my mom said he was gone. I heard a phone conversation she had with my mom about a week after he died.

Grandma: We love Kayleigh, and we love Grandma, and we love Daddy, and we love Mama–
Kayleigh, backing away from the phone, starting to cry: And Baba, too! And Baba, too! And Baba, too!

It didn't help that Eric's mom died 8 weeks later. "Gamma Mack" was her second-favorite grandparent. Nine months after Maxine died, Kayleigh was still looking for her. Sad. It took a long time before Kayleigh trusted us again. Years. Not kidding, not kidding myself, either.

Anyway, we wandered through the tiny cemetery toward the church. My great, great-grandparents got married there, I guess. I can't remember anymore. The farm around the cemetery is still in some part of the family rather far removed at this point. I don't even know their names. For all the tramping around we did in the area when I was a kid, my dad never seemed interested in seeking out his living, distant cousins.

Next was a stop for ice cream, which scored quite highly on Kelsey's daily events scorecard.

And then it was off to Point Beach, finally. It was getting late, and shadows were already long by the time we got there. We didn't mind. The water of Lake Michigan was cool and fairly clear and very high. There was hardly a beach at all, in fact, at least compared to years past.

Kelsey played in the water and collected shells

while Eric took pictures of dragonflies,

Kayleigh sat on a towel and thought and doodled,

and I wandered among the three of them. There weren't many people there. It was quite pleasant, nicely relaxing.

As the sun set, we left for home. Kelsey got sand in areas she'd rather not have, so I gave her lots of water, and we had to stop a couple times. We got some hot chocolate and some gasoline as the night animals started their prowls. Sadly, one of them will prowl no longer. A family of four raccoons was making its way toward Lake Winnebago, and I didn't see them in time. I hit the brakes, but my front right tire got one of them. I always wondered how people could not see raccoons. Now I know. They weren't there, and then they were. I suppose that's the way it is with deer – and small children. God.

We got home about 11:20, tired but happy for a day together.

Tomorrow is our 16th wedding anniversary, so we're going out again. Without the kids this time.

A note on the pics: Some are from my cell phone, but some are ones that Eric took with his nice camera. He took the one of the forest, the dragonfly, Kelsey in the water, and the last one of Kayleigh on the towels on the beach.


lisa said...

That was sad for me to see your Dad's headstone. I have a menu pig in my kitchen whose name is Maurice Smith, a brother of Oink.

MJ Krech said...

I hope Sarah tells you the story about Kayleigh looking for Gramma Mack downstairs at their Oregon house the next Christmas. Very sweet/sad...

Not silly at all to bury the penny by your Dad. Very powerful and touching, actually. I can see myself doing the same meaningful gesture. Makes perfect sense to me, sister!

Thanks for the nice travel story! We took our kids to the Big Lake every summer when we lived in Fond du Lac. They rode the train by Lake Winnebago more than once. I wonder if they remember that. Great park, that's for sure. I took them back for a visit when they were older; took their picture in front of the lighthouse. They'd gotten over leaving Fondy by then...

Loved your photos! But then...I always do! Thanks!

Amy said...

Lisa, what was it with that joke? I had to tip my hat to T when my dad told it to her. She laughed hard.

Marcia, I wondered if you'd taken Ben & Sarah to that park. When did you leave Fond du Lac?

MJ Krech said...

We left Fondy in 1984. The train was a fixture there already. Of course, most of the year it was cold and snowy and icey. We were there more often in the dead of winter with the wind blowing in off the lake. It was pretty skanky there. Not much swimming then, either.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Amy,
What a lovely post. Great to get the family together on those trips invoving old places and nature. The photos are very cool and you made me think of my own father who is buried in Neenah. I never thought much of Lake Winnebago either! Point Beach use to be one of my favourite places to go as a kid. Kia ora for reviving memories for me as well Amy, and hope you had a great anniversary.

Amy said...

Robb, it was a pleasant day. We were all glad we went. Except maybe that raccoon.