Journey is a very romantic word for going someplace. The word has always sounded to me like it had purpose connected to it – a journey is for a reason and has value at its end. Evan and Claire were quite young and in my charge for a week when their parents were on a vacation. When taking care of children one of my fears has always been that I will run out of things to do to entertain them. And a week is a long time. I decided to whet their curiosity and told them we would be going on a journey one of those days, but I did not tell them where or why (because I hadn’t yet figured that out).
Evan and Claire lived in the small Wisconsin town where I had grown up. I had memories of the places that I had played in and explored as a child that had captivated me – the farm, the backyard woods, the beautiful spring fed Round Lake. The purpose of the journey would be to share the magic of this outdoor wonderland. The challenge of the journey would be to keep it simple enough for a 5 and 8 year old to appreciate without making it too boring or tiring. Clearly food had to be involved.
Keeping our destination a secret, I packed peanut butter, apples, nuts and water for all of us. The children were excited to get into their car seats and head out on the journey. We drove to the countryside and pulled into a field. Just walking through the tall grass in a place they’d never been, carrying their backpacks and provisions, they were full of questions. They looked at bugs and plants and small animals, birds. I made them count how many different sounds they could hear if they listened really hard. The woods were even more magical with the fall colors at their peak. There was a golden glow on the forest floor and in the canopy with leaves falling everywhere. We ran to the places I had built forts and given certain trees names of their own. We climbed and balanced and explored an old machinery graveyard. We ate our snacks nestled in the leaves. I hope the kids had as much fun as I did, visiting my favorite places. There is something very special about revisiting places with a child and seeing them again with fresh eyes, fresh excitement.
We’ve had other journeys since and the name has stuck. They ask me about their journeys and refer to them when we’re talking about times past. I’ll bet someday they will take their own children on journeys. What place could you share with a child on a journey?