When is the last time you felt like going on a little trip, and then just… left?
We went for a vacation to Texas a few weeks ago. It was a mixed business trip with a family visit, as Matt and I attended the Young Living convention, and then visited family. It was a great trip, but it didn’t feel any easier to wake up last Monday morning to go to work.
In fact, we both felt like we needed a vacation after the vacation!
The week back to work felt longer than ever, and Matt’s work days stretched late, but he surprised us on Friday by coming home earlier. I was still in a haze trying to get work done and hang out with the kids, and watch the puppy. Then this conversation happened.
Matt: Do you want to go for a road trip?
Me: Yes! When? Where?
Matt: Now. But I’m tired from this week, so max six hour drive.
Me: What about all of the food we bought for the weekend yesterday? Hm, I will just chop all of the veggies and we will take them with us. We will have picnics and veggies and hummus all weekend.
Matt: OK. We need a cooler bag.
And just like that, we decided to go on a road trip.
We packed, we made dinner, we chopped vegetables, and went to buy a cooler bag, and two hours later, we were on the road.
While Matt wanted to drive all the way to Atlantic coast to take us to the beach, I didn’t want to arrive back home again tired from the trip, so I suggested driving a few hours North, to Watertown, NY, where we used to live. Now when kids are older, we have been trying to take them to places that hold family memories. We have been moving around for 18 years, so “home” is a relative expression. Our memories and homes are scattered around the world, and we lived in Watertown in 2002-2005. We moved there from Schweinfurt, Germany, and we moved from there to Lakewood, Ohio.
Oh, the memory lane
Watertown is where we purchased our first house together, and where our son Kristian was born. It wasn’t the perfect town, but it was a safe town to raise kids, and I loved how close to Canada we were for weekend trips to Montreal and Ottawa. With the Lake Ontario, the 1000 Island area and the Adirondacks close by, we were surrounded by beauty.
Kids were young, all three under five while we lived there. The years before Watertown had been busy too. Isabella was born in Finland while Matt was deployed in Kosovo, and Gabriella was born in Germany, just six weeks before we moved back to United States. We also spent three months traveling in the US before moving to Watertown. Yes, we had been traveling a lot, and in many ways I thought our travel days were over, and it was our time to settle down, especially because I had just found out I was pregnant again, before we even got to Watertown.
I loved our Victorian house, and I saw our family there for a long time. Matt was always busy working as a helicopter test pilot, and I kept busy at home. I always forced him to help me with the multiple house-projects I had. My parents flew in from Finland, and my dad helped to rewire the electricity in the house, and built the white picket fence. There was an abandoned old church close to us, and I dreamed of buying it and turning it into a coffee shop. I know I had dreams just staying there, although I knew Matt’s career dreams were somewhere else. And life did have more adventures for us, and we left Watertown in fall 2005, and never returned until this weekend.
In many ways, it was better than we remembered.
Our house was still there, but so much of its character was gone. In a way it made me sad, but at the same time it was easy not to miss the beautiful home we once had, this house didn’t look nearly as cozy as when we lived in it. The old church was there too, and to my disappointment the roof was caving in, and nothing had been done to it in ten years, and now it was too late for the over hundred year old building to be saved.
Watertown had grown a lot, and in very odd way after ten years, and after seeing so many other run down New York towns, I was expecting Watertown to look more run down too. I thought maybe my vision of the beautiful streets (Paddock and Flower, where we lived) were altered in my memories, and maybe the rows of Victorian and Colonial houses were not as amazing as I remembered them to be. We drove around the town, and sighed, even Watertown is much more beautiful than the town where we live now.
I had felt the same way of Lakewood, Ohio, after visiting there this winter and summer. A small sting in my heart saying that maybe if we had just stayed in Watertown (or in Lakewood), our life would be somehow better right now, and maybe we could have prevented some of the hard things we have gone through. But what would our lives be without all of the adventures? We had lived life to the fullest, that’s for sure.
We drove to Sackets Harbor, cute little town by Lake Ontario. Sacrets Harbor was the historic battlefield of the war 1812, and it and we headed for the Sackets Harbor Battlefield for a picnic. After letting Hugo, our dog, to run in the water, and walking around the park, we pulled out the veggies and hummus of the cooler bag and set up a picnic on the lawn. Afterwards, we took naps and read books and I just gazed the lake view. It was the best thing ever.
We continued the Great Lakes Seaway Trail and stopped in towns like Clayton, and visited the Tibbitts Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent.
We told stories to kids about the time we lived in Watertown, and showed the places we had liked going. We had been out the entire day, and we were all getting tired, and we considering just calling it a night. We were just driving around and at sevenish on the evening we happened to drive by the Watertown Fairgrounds and saw people parking their cars for an event. We could tell that the parking lot was really filling up just by driving by, and then we saw the sign what was going on… A Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.
Matt and I just looked at each others and we both got teary eyed. This extempore road trip was sending us a message bigger than we expected. See, on our third date, we went to Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. It was in Germany in 1997, and while we were not big fans, when an All-American band plays in Germany close to an American military base, there is no other option but go! Ironically we listened to Sweet Home Alabama in the concert then, and a year later we were living in Alabama, married.
What are the odds that we return to Watertown ten years later only to drive by the concert at the moment it is starting?
We knew we had to go to the concert, and just figure it out, with three kids and a dog and all.
We ended the night… with serendipitous Lynyrd Skynyrd concert tailgating
I had never been tailgating before.
We got a huge take-out pizza from our old favorite pizza place, and parked behind the fairgrounds to listen to the concert. Kids didn’t really like (or believe) our music taste, but for us it wasn’t just about rock’n’roll. It was about memories of the past 18 years.
We remembered how we knew on that day in 1997 that we wanted to be together forever. All what we knew back then that we were from the opposite sides of the world, but the only home we ever wanted again was with each others. Several countries, states and addresses later, we had returned to one of our “homes” only to remember what truly mattered to us: being together in this crazy world.
Some old photos…
I had to take pictures of some of our old photos from that time.
This is my father – handling baby sitting a year old Gaby and building a fence at the same time.
Mother’s Day 2003.
Summer 2003 in Sackets Harbor.
Matt and Me in summer 2004 in Sackets Harbor.
Post by Katja Presnal
“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.