Note: This thread was originally posted by me in another forum in January, 2002.
With 2001 well behind us, I am just curious to know what the most happy or enjoyable day of the year was for all of you. I am sure there is one date that stands out on a personal basis. Please share with me the date, and the events that made that day so memorable.
For me, the nicest day has got to be January 13, 2001, a Saturday. Looking back, its is difficult to believe it is just a year and a half-ago with all that has happened worldwide and even more so on a personal front.
I like to reflect back on the previous year and think about all the changes that have taken place in my life over the course of that year as well as events that have taken place in the world. To me, no January seems so distant at the end of the year than January of 2001. Looking back, I can recall no month so further in the past, and a peace-of-mind from that era now so elusive.
On the surface, it would seem like a just typical day in the life of a relatively new father taking his kids out for some fun. On that day, I decided to take my two kids, Shaun, then aged 3, and Bethany, aged 11 months, to a nearby Metropark for some cross-country sledding.(Pushing them down a trail in a sled). I usually take them somewhere when my wife, who stays at home with the kids, needs a little break from them. I love taking them places.
We arrived at the park around 1:00 P.M., which was empty of almost all activity - a far cry from the chaos of my previous visits last summer. The park is heavily forested, being some of the last remnants of the Great Black Swamp. It was a typical mid-January day: Cloudy and overcast, temperature about 33 F with almost no wind. There was about six inches of snow on the ground, leftover from the near- record snowfall from the month previous. You couldn't pick a better day to just go walking in the woods. To me, nothing is more perfect than an overcast day in the winter with the temperature hovering around freezing with plenty of snow on the ground for insulation and little or no wind. Contrast this with a typical snowless sunny day in winter, and chances are it will be windy and colder. To me, winter snow brings "warmth". If its winter, it might as well be snowy.
Anyway, all I did that day was take Shaun and Bethany down one of the trails through the forest. I just trudged down the footpath, easily traversable after weeks of being trampled on by hikers and skiers, yet with enough snow for a sled to move with relative facility. The kids enjoyed being pushed along in the snow. Shaun had been in sleds before, but for Bethany, this was a totally new experience. There was absolutely nobody else around and amongst the endless landscape of bare trees, it was so eerily quiet. The only thing audible other than an sporadic squirrel or bird, was the distant hum of traffic on the main highway on the north edge of the park. Occasionally the soothing drone would be broken up by reports from a distant hunter's shotgun, or far off siren's song of a freight train.
I pushed the sled with them in it all the way to one of those old wooden WPA gazebos that was built in the 1930s. Shaun kept saying "I like this place" and we just hung around inside there for a while. Bethany just made a few unintelligible sounds that you expect from a 11 month old (I'm sure she knew what she was saying). Since she wasn't walking yet, I had to hold her, but Shaun was able to walk around and marvel at all the newfound uniqueness around him. Nearby was a stone bridge, also built during the Great Depression. The kids didn't complain about the cold, or anything else, the whole time we were there.
We stayed there about twenty minutes or so, then headed back to the visitors center to warm up a little. Inside it was one of those Windows on Wildlife where you could view all the birds and animals through a large picture window with sounds piped in from the outside. It was nice and warm and toasty inside.
I propped Bethany up on the ledge in front of the large glass and she kept alternately smiling at me and then looking out the window. At eleven months, she certainly hadn't seen anything like this before. (Heck, she didn't even know what a squirrel was). Shaun occupied himself by running up and down a long row of shelves that were used for seating. You can't buy that kind of enjoyment at places like Toys ‘R Us.
We were there about a forty-five minutes so and I wanted to take Shaun to see some trains so we left. In retrospect I wish we had stayed there longer. There would always be plenty of time to see trains, but the kind of things we did today, as I would soon find out, occur only once in a lifetime. At the time, I remember thinking that since it was only mid-January, there would be plenty of opportunities to come back and do this again. But the truth was, I never did. By the end of the month, all the snow had pretty much melted and I never got the chance to get back out there because they heavy snows never returned. Oh, I did go back to that park with them later on that year in the summer, and we even went to the Nature Center. But it just wasn't the same. There were just too many people...and mosquitoes.
That quiet January day remains the most memorable day of 2001 because it symbolizes a much happier time for me. On the surface, nothing really exciting happened on that day, didn't win a million dollars or anything like that. It was just a typical fun winter day with the kids, the way life should be. Yet, I think it was a picture-postcard day for what early childhood should be like for every boy and girl. I can't help but feel sad for all the little ones that were not outside on such a blessedly beautiful day such as January 13, 2001.
It wouldn't be too much later that year that I would get severely depressed. By April, my beloved grandfather had died, and after a disastrous vacation in June, followed by severe anxiety at work, I had spiraled into a deep depression. The relative happiness of the past 14 or 15 years seems to have come to a grinding halt, and I seem to be at my lowest level of happiness since I was 21. It would get even worse in 2002: My father, ailing for years, had died by April, barely a year after his father - my grandfather had passed.
Yet, in some ways, the saddest thing of all is that my daughter will never be 11 months old again. We could go back again this winter, and I'm sure we would have a good time, but it just won't be the same. I doubt she will even remember me taking her there on that warm winter day, so long ago. More than anything, I wish she would remember, but babies aren't meant to remember things like that, or if so, only a few fleeting recollections that cannot be assigned to a specific place or time.
So if you have kids that are my age, please do what I do and take them places - free places like parks, playgrounds and train watching sites every opportunity you can. Please keep them out of the malls and away from the TV. If you do, you will be happier for it and they will too. Those first five years are so impressionable and once they are gone, they will never, ever come back.
I will take my kids to the park like this any opportunity I have. They might not remember any specific event years from now, but if they can remember the spirit of those days with nary a care in the world then I have accomplished one of my responsibilities as a father. Heck, I wish I could remember everything I did from age 1 to 3. I would gladly trade all my dogcrap memories from age 19 to 21 for it, believe me.
Never before have I felt so disconnected from such a recent part of my past. It seems like some huge chasm has opened up, forever separating me from those less worrisome times of not so long ago, yet for me, another dimension of time.
What is your most memorable experience of the last year? Be as brief or as lenghty as you want. I will read all responses.[