Just when we adults think we have things figured out. Just when we dot all the "i's" and cross all the "t's"...along come the beautiful little beings called children to sit us down for a spell...and teach us how to truly live...the simple life.
My cousin, and her beautiful little family, were coming up to visit us at our Nehemiah Homestead. They were hoping for a weekend getaway from all things scheduled...like school, early morning wakeups, school lunchbox decisions, and afternoon activity dashes.
I busied myself planning the perfect fall getaway weekend for these sweet little girls. Special dishes were filled with candy corn, apple spice cookies bulged out of the cookie tin, and plans for baking little apple rosette tarts would be the special treat...since it was #2 sister, Camille's birthday that weekend.
I penciled out on paper the ultimate fall weekend activities. We wouldn't miss a beat of seasonal "to-do's" and I packed together an agenda of things to do and see. We would be a bunch of busy-bees for sure. There was visiting the Gould Apple Farm up the road, hiking to the top of Kearsarge Mountain for the best view of the fall foliage, and the much-anticipated Warner Fall FoliageFestival taking place that very weekend of their visit.
But, these littlest of humans, with their precious little hearts and innocent little minds saw the whole weekend unfold with anticipation and excitement in the simplest of activities that I never could have predicted. The world of children is so magical and pure. Their minds are so untethered from the world of an adult mind that they make us stop and marvel at their uniqueness. They have so much to teach us adults about what are really...the simple joys in life.
Apples picked from our apple orchard
Our chopped winter wood had just been delivered and was dumped in a humongous pile down the hill from the apple orchard close to the big heavy sliding doors of the barn. The air was filled with that fresh smell of wood. With absolute glee, the girls carefully scampered to the top of the pile to survey the view of the hillside stretching down towards the rumbling river below. Their tiny little hands got to work, deciding that carrying the wood, piece by piece and stacking it inside the barn was the best activity imaginable. I looked on with wonder at their view of the world and what represents a fun time. A simple time. I thought of my scrawled list of the "perfect" weekend activities. Gee whiz, why hadn't I thought of the obviously exciting task of stacking wood!
Warner, New Hampshire Fall Foliage Festival
The oldest, Maria, shyly came up to me at one point. She wondered if, just maybe, we could go exploring way deep down in the cellar...you know, way to the back where the lights are dim, the shadows are heavy, and spider webs cling to the remote corners of the thick wooden ceiling beams.
I rummaged around under the sink, managed to find two working flashlights, and we took off carefully making our way down the creaking staircase, into the dimly lit cellar for an adventure only an 8 year old can imagine holds such mystery and heart-thumping intrigue. Maria bravely explored every nook and cranny down there. She peered into the large empty wooden spaces where, before refrigerators, a century ago, large ice blocks were stored and food was place inside to keep it fresh. We tried to open a locked door deep within the cellar walls by pulling and wiggling the old rusted latch. It was to no avail. The heavy metal latch wouldn't budge. Maria's curiosity was palpable. We could only stand in front of it and have a discussion about what might be behind that door. Did it go outside do you think? Does it lead to a secret room? A secret passage? We had to eventually make our way back through the cellar, crouched down low to avoid the hanging spider webs...that question of the locked door and its whereabouts a mystery to ponder deeply.
Warner, New Hampshire Fall Foliage Festival
At some point during the weekend, we did all manage to pile into the car...amidst sippy travel cups, piles of books, and fuzzy stuffed animals, in order to head to my tip-top #1 do-not-miss -bonafide good time-ultimate fall event destination. We headed to our little town's Warner Fall Foliage Festival.
We rolled up and down the hills of our Merrimack Valley. The luminance of the light hitting the fall foliage of lovely New Hampshire paraded us along its bucolic country lanes. It was as if the trees were beckoning for sweet recognition, dressed in their finest corals, reds, and yellows, waiting and yearning for the gasps of appreciation from the littlest human beings in our car. As we drove by, one could almost imagine them saying, "Yoooohoo! Aren't we pretty?" But tiny little voices could be heard from deep within the car. "Maybe when we get back, if there are rakes, we can make the biggest pile of leaves!" and "When we get back, I want to climb way up to the tower of the house and see if there is anything spooky up there!" and "There was a lot of wood there to stack, we'd better get back and stack some more piles!".
In the car, we swept by the stalwart trees with their leaves shimmering with the vibrancy and color of sequins, like on a Rockette's costume, waving back and forth trying to capture the attention and dazzle all of the passersby. Deep within the car, the girls continued their wishes for, "when we get back...". We spilled out of the car and onto the Main St. of town. The fair was indeed adorable. All the sweet expected delights of a community gathering to celebrate the end of one season and preparation for another were there. This fair is the last big hurrah of the season before flakes of snow begin to dazzle us with an entirely different palette of colors. The girls hugged Smokey the Bear with unbridled rapture and climbed in and out of the titanic sized shiny fire trucks. They licked sticky maple cotton candy off of tiny fingers and smacked their lips with satisfaction. We giggled over tiny acorn ornaments hanging from a tree and wondered at the brightly painted fake cows planted here and there on Main St. We made our way down the street, ate burgers and fries for lunch from our little town pub, The Local, and sipped on steamy hot apple cider in tiny little cups.
After hours of enjoying this classic country festival, filled with all things Americana and New England, piggy-back rides were in order as we retraced our steps and tiredly shuffled our way back to the car.
One would think we had seen and done it all on this fabulous fall weekend. That is...seen and done it all from a 2.5, 5, and an 8 year old perspective. What ranked top of the weekend activity list? Hardly anything from my original list, that is for sure! It was the simplest joys that landed at the top. The simplest joys that our befuddled and overly-organized adult minds can no longer grasp.
When we go back to the house, 3 seemingly tired little girls tumbled out of their seats. Not too much to my surprise, their little voices piped, "Do you have any rakes in the barn?" they asked, all peering up at me as if I held the keys to happiness in that big red barn...if I would only just say "yes". Indeed, we did. And their little hands dragged those big wide rakes out into the hillside of leaves. Each had their own plan of attack on how to cluster together the biggest pile of leaves they could imagine. The anticipation grew as squeals of excitement meant the pile was growing bigger and bigger...past the knees...up to the shoulders! A simpler way of life. Isn't that why we moved from the tumult of urban sprawl into this land where sometimes it seems as if time has stopped or slowed down considerably? Sometimes, reminders of this lesson come from the most unexpected places...the frenzied anticipation of our dog Chester over a simple walk, that first hot satisfying sip of fresh coffee in the morning ...and from the mouths of babes...who believe stacking wood, exploring barns and cellars, and raking humongous piles of leaves...is the good life. I say, they're on to something!
I made these little rolled apple and pastry tartletes by following this sweet video that I came upon: