When less is more — the simple things in life

Contributing WriterJuly 15, 2013 

This past Memorial Day weekend, we went on a family road trip. Our destination: Salt Lake City, Utah — an 865-mile trip to visit longtime friends Geoff and Missy.

Other than the typical “are we there yet” question asked ad nauseam from the back seat and Carter’s extreme disappointment in discovering that the Blue Mountain range in northeastern Oregon was, in fact, not blue, it was rather uneventful.

The boys watched a movie on the longer days when snacks and books were just not enough. The rest of the time we discussed the fly-by view out our windows: wind turbines, center pivot irrigation of crops, livestock and more.

We arrived at Geoff and Missy’s house Friday evening, an orderly house with two curious cats but no kids. In a matter of moments little boy shoes and socks, travel containers with remnants of goldfish crackers and leaky water bottles, matchbox cars and stuffed animals extended out in all directions from their front door. Geoff and Missy didn’t mind — although I am not sure the same can be said for their cats.

The next two days were full: a visit to the huge dinosaur-centric Museum of Ancient Life, a local park, restaurants and on the last day the Park City Mountain Resort amusement park. The boys were wide-eyed at all the rides. We splurged on all-day passes and tickets for the roller coaster and a slide that requires a ski lift to get to the start point.

There were tears from both boys as we said our good-byes Sunday afternoon. After we crossed the state line into Washington on Monday afternoon, I asked the boys to tell me their favorite part of our trip. I expected them to bring up the large trampolines at Park City or the dinosaurs from the museum.

Without hesitation, Cody told me that his favorite part was washing the dinner dishes with Missy. He liked being in charge of the extendo-faucet and enjoyed it when Missy demonstrated how their garbage disposal worked.

Carter answered that his favorite part was when Geoff taught him how the backyard sprinkler system worked. He also mentioned getting to run around in the yard kicking a ball as the sprinklers went on and off.

Their answers got me thinking about some of my childhood trips. There was the summer before I started second grade when our well-house pump broke. This prompted my mom to take my older sister and me to Disneyland to keep us from learning what she called “plumber language” from our dad (who rarely swore unless he was working on plumbing).

Disneyland was great, but what I remember is sitting in the hotel room drawing picture after picture of palm trees with my scented magic markers. I had never seen a palm tree before and thought they were beautiful.

The summer before fourth grade, my mom, brave woman that she was, took my sister and me on a cross-country train ride from Seattle to Philadelphia, where we stayed with some family friends. I have vague memories of the Liberty Bell and waiting in a long line to tour the White House on a side trip to Washington, D.C.

But what I remember most is the horror on my mom’s face when I handcuffed myself to her with some handcuffs I had bought from a street vendor before checking to see if the key they came with actually worked (it did).

I remember catching fireflies in glass jars and walking around our friend’s neighborhood eating the most amazing ice cream I had ever had. I later discovered that it was not ice cream at all but rather berry sorbet.

I am continually learning that quite often the most enjoyed, the most vivid moments of our lives are the simple ones – the steady humming of daily life between or perhaps during those vacations we take. They are the ones made of human connections, of discovering new things, and of simply being with no pressure to be somewhere or expectation to have fun.

Barbecuing hot dogs with friends, watching the kids run through the sprinklers and perhaps even helping wash the dishes when the day is done — those are the moments when less is most certainly more. Those are the moments we should pay closer attention to.

Nancy Magnusson is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. She lives with her husband and their two young sons just outside of Gig Harbor. They enjoy focusing on the simple things in life and taking the road less traveled. Email her at nancy@nancymagnusson.com.

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