Yesterday afternoon, just as I was getting ready to leave work, just as my husband, the tree guy, was dropping off our boys so he could run do some estimates, I got the news. I got the news that a wonderful mom and mommy blogger, Barbara Curtis, had died suddenly. My dad sent me the letter that her husband, a tree guy, wrote. I had tears streaming down my face. This was a couple who loved parenting so much, they just kept having kids. They had 12 on their own (I think), and when their youngest was born with Down Syndrome, they adopted 2 more boys with Down Syndrome so they could further build their community.
I think it is important to let my children see me cry, and not shield them from pain, but I also know that they don’t know this woman. I had asked Scott to bring the boys to me so we could do something fun together, some adventure, some running around at a park or something to burn off the extra sugar they have running through their veins after Halloween. As we drove away from my office, I was wracking my brains trying to think of something we could do that would give them room to run, and give me space to grieve, all at the same time. How do we combine adventure with a bit of solemn reverence and remembering with gratitude, and joy?
“What day is it”, I asked the boys, “is it Science Day or History & Geography Day?” They both claimed that it was Art Day. Okay, Art it is. And I’m still looking around for inspiration to decide what to do for fun. The trees are bright and delicious colors right now. I decided to take some pictures of the kids among the bright leaves and call it an Art Adventure.
My office is right behind Costco, and this first picture was taken in their parking lot. I was really grasping at straws trying to find the right place for picture taking. But the leaves were super red and the boys were already picking up on the sense of random adventure, so it was starting to work.
As we drove towards our house, I was trying to think of the right park to stop at, but I didn’t want to just end up playing on equipment. I wanted to just be with my boys and some trees and some open grassy areas. I didn’t want to share them with anyone else right now. It dawned on me that the Camp White Military Museum, was one street past our turn off to home, and it is housed at the big VA Rehab campus, full of trees and open spaces. We’ve never been there, and I thought it might be a fitting place to be free and run, and also give me a chance to be reverent.
We found wide open spaces, and piles of leaves to fall down into and make leaf angels.
The museum was closed. We will have to find a way to get there during the week sometime, but the grounds were gorgeous. The rose walkway directly in front of the Museum is beautiful looking towards the museum, or away from it.
At the end of the walkway is a little secret garden-esque grape vine covered table. This seems like the perfect place to come back to in the middle of summer for a delicious picnic.
Here, they are looking less than thrilled with taking another picture, but I was really only wanting to see the inside of this place.
We found a great place to run wild in the open beneath some lovely trees. I think this looks incredibly Narnian. We just finished reading “The Magician’s Nephew,” and I think this particular picture looks like the Wood Between the Woods, “With one very important difference,” offered Ben, “There are no pools.” True, but that’s where imagination comes in.
As it was starting to get dark, I thought I would like to stop at the Veteran’s National Cemetery in Eagle Point, which we drive past all the time, but have never actually visited. I told the boys as we entered the grounds that we needed to be quiet here, and explained that all the people buried here had served our country and had fought in a war, and that they were resting here peacefully, and we needed to be quiet and respectful.
I had no idea how much this would touch my heart. I should have. I did, I guess. But it was more powerful than I could have imagined.
At the peak of the hill that overlooks Eagle Point, the community where we live, there is a monument with the words of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address printed on it. I read it out loud to the boys as we watched the sunset, my voice quavering but strong. What a beautiful testament to those who have died defending our country.
What a beautiful reminder of what is sacred, and precious to us as a nation, our men and women, and the families they defend.
Ben was most curious about what “Thus” meant, because that word is used several times throughout the speech. He needed to run his hands along the words and feel them beneath his fingers. I love the poet side of him. We will study that speech in time, and look over what each section means. Tonight it was just lovely to be on such hallowed ground with my boys, after playing amid the beauty of trees, running through open grassy places, ducking into secret gardens, and climbing trees. At the end of our day, we stood watching the sun go down to the words of a great President.
When we got home, Ben needed to do homework, and he balked. He got fussy and grumpy. We talked about being Enlightened, and Looking Up and Out in Wonder to see what we can learn, not looking down in anger saying we know it all, and don’t want to learn any more. He asked me if I wanted him to be stupid, to act like he doesn’t know anything. I explained that the smartest people always know that there is so much more to learn.
I took our adventure as an example. We drove home the way we normally drove home, and there were beautiful things to see and do that we had never seen or done, but today we were looking up and out and wanting to see and grow and do and live a little bit more open-hearted in wonder. We learned something. We enjoyed ourselves. We got to stand in a place full of history and feel a sense of reverence and gratitude that filled our hearts. I asked him if he could look at his homework with a sense of enlightenment, and know that his mind needs to learn, like his heart needs to love. His face changed, and he got through homework in a much different mood.
Goodbye, Barbara Curtis. Thank you for your great heart, your devotion to your family, the words of wisdom you have so generously shared with us mothers and wives. You have inspired us to be open-hearted and more gentle and gracious than we thought possible. Many blessings to your family.