The first Christmas I spent with Matthew’s family was an eye opening one. They open presents one at a time. They make these delicious sugar cookies with peanut butter cups in the center. They all play video games and no matter how hard I try (truthfully, I don’t try at all), my eyes cannot process what’s happening on the screen. And they’re generous. One of the days, we went and did a service project at a shelter. Making and serving a Christmas meal. I probably had the easiest job- playing Christmas hymns and carols on the piano while everyone ate. It was fun and humbling and tiring; I fell down onto the living room couch as soon as we got home. And then someone, I don’t remember who, said, “Now what should we do?” I’m telling you, my heart dropped. We had already done something that day, a major activity. We were home now. And someone was suggesting we do something else?
Herein lies one of the biggest philosophy differences between my family and Matthew’s: how to use our time together. In our marriage, it manifests itself in the different ways we like to spend our weekends. I’m of the mind that you’ve been working and doing things all week– so on the weekend you’re going to what, do more things? Of course not. Matthew, however, thinks weekends are the time to get out and go on adventures and do thing after thing after thing after thing. So naturally, the two weekends we’ve had as a family in California have not been spent doing nothing. The first weekend, we went to Pierce Point Ranch and this past weekend we drove to Muir Woods.
Matthew had gone on his own at the beginning of the summer and if you’re going to do weekend adventures, the best kind is one that’s already been scoped out for you. The picture taking opportunity, the mostly smooth passageways perfect for strollers, and enormous redwoods I’ve always wanted to see fit the bill for our final weekend.
Muir Woods is a national park and super kid friendly. There are more advanced hikes and trails you can do but we stuck to the paved passages and boardwalks. Ella was climbing all over and Jack inexplicably and miraculously stayed in the stroller almost the entire time. He’s the one we should have taken across Europe; Ella required several bribes a day to get her little legs back off the uneven and busy sidewalks of London, Rome, and Vienna.
These trees are mythical things; it feels like they’re alive, like you can see them moving out of the corner of your eye but as soon as you turn your head to look, they’re still and back in place. The whole time I felt like they were moving in on me but not in an oppressive or threatening way. Like we were being enveloped, embraced, with small slivers of warm light just peeking through.
The best part was Cathedral Grove. There’s a sign telling you it’s coming and to try to be quiet, a tough challenge when you’re with two little darlings, but we managed as best we could. Maybe it was confirmation bias but there was something more peaceful about Cathedral Grove. More ethereal. Even though there are so many tourists and passersby and camera clicks, there is something about the exact arrangement of trees and branches and quiet air that feels like a house of worship. You feel small and happy to be so.
In this one case, I was all for going on weekend adventures because we only had two in this place and I have no idea if or when we’ll ever be back here. In those circumstances, doing my regular nothing would have been a waste, even I could see that. This has been such a strange and random summer, and it’s kind of taught me to go with the flow. Go with my family and make memories. Go with the adventures.