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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who Says There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

Maybe our lunches weren't free, but our post-lunch fun was! Several years ago, we lived close to our town's fire station. Just next to it was a tiny park, no bigger than a subdivision lot really, but it had some wooden picnic tables shaded by a dozen georgeous pin oaks. While my oldest son was in first grade, we had put our house on the market, so there were times when we'd have to leave our house so a potential home buyer could tour it. Meanwhile, hubby was already living in the new city, so I was left to deal with working, taking care of three young boys, and keeping the house spotless. When we finally moved, I don't think I made a bed for six months, but that's another story entirely. This story is about some surprisingly fun and free activities we've stumbled upon by accident.

Z was too shy to be in the picture.
One early fall morning, I decided to pack up our lunches, put my then three- and two-year-old sons in their double stroller and have a picnic by the firestation while my oldest son was in school. I'm thinking we needed to leave so a realtor could show our house. The weather was lovely, and boys were happy, and all was right in the world! As we finished up are meal and collected more than several pockets full of acorns, we heard the firetruck return to the station. How neat! I grabbed my camera, and before I had a chance to snap a shot, a fireman came up to us and asked if my boys would enjoy a tour. YES! All preschool boys love firetrucks, right? Mine always had. They gave us a tour, let me snap a few pictures, and handed the boys their very own plastic firefighter hats.

I will always cherish that particular memory partly because of its simplicity. Don't you just love organic moments like that?

Almost six years later (wow, has it been that long ago?) since that fire station tour, we had another lovely post-lunch surprise with the kids. In late July, I decided to treat them to a lunch at our local private airport. The restaurant food is mediocre, but I remember eating there as a child and watching the little airplanes taxi around and take off. Plus, they have a duck pond, and we all love ducks.

After finishing up our baskets of chicken strips and fries, we were a bit disappointed that flight traffic had been very low that day. We had only seen two small planes taxi past our window. It was a sunny day. Why weren't more hobbiests taking the day off from work to fly their planes? Why weren't more private jets returning from vacations?  Then a gentleman approached our table, obviously noting my boys' better-than-usual polite behavior during lunch, and asked if we'd like to tour a plane. YES! All school-aged boys love airplanes, right? Mine always have. We walked outside where he had to get special permission to enter the runway area, and he took us to a small single-engine plane that is used for flight lessons. I didn't have my camera during this outing, but I quickly pulled out my smart phone. The man was a pilot for United who also flew private planes for fun. He answered our questions and quizzed the boys about how a plane is able to take off and land. When he saw my phone, he even offered to take a group picture. I loved that! How often are moms left out of group pictures because we are responsible for the photographing? Sometimes I worry that my children will have no memory of me before my face is full of wrinkles and my hair is solid gray.

 A couple other men who were watching us, came up and asked, "Hey, why don't you let them hop in the plane?" He answered by opening the door and inviting the children to climb inside. He let them fidget with the steering and examine the controls up close while I, of course, snapped more pictures.

We thanked him as we left and went to watch the ducks for a while. It was another lovely post-lunch-totally-unplanned-free-but-spectacular outing made by the kindness of a stranger.  

You can find me at these parties!

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