Day Twelve

Today was the day we had set aside for back to school shopping. People have been committed for less than taking three boys to an outlet mall but you can’t beat the outlets for one-stop-shopping. Just to up the ante, I decided to go to the Leesburg Outlets and throw in a ride on White’s Ferry thus satisfying a social studies summer requirement as well. The kids had to pick up a post card to prove we had been to this historic site and mail it to their teacher before school started.
I asked that each boy submit a list of what they thought they needed for my approval. Mac threw in a PlayStation 3 which I didn’t comment on except to say I didn’t think they sold them at the outlets. Nice try.
White’s Ferry is only about twenty minutes from my house but the landscape quickly turned to open fields as we made our way down the winding roads. My mom and I were both reminded of her childhood home in Maine as we passed the corn fields and orchards.
As we pulled up to the ferry, the kids were clearly underwhelmed. Maybe the boys had seen too much of “The Suite Life on Deck” and thought the boat would be bigger or more exotic. From what they could discern around the boxtruck that idled in front of us and blocked much of our view, this was amatuer hour. They craned their necks to see the ferry as it made its way back to the shoreline to pick us up.
I tried to dazzle them with historic data like the fact that this boat had been in operation since the late 1780’s. Or the fact that it was a family owned business that includes the ferry, canoe rentals and the bait and snack shop that has been passed down for generations. All of this information was culled from my surf through the website earlier to find out the round-trip ticket price. However, I like to lead my kids to believe that I am a walking data bank and can recall these facts because I am just that smart.
Instead, Drew wanted to know how deep the water was. Reed wanted to know if the truck in front of us was going to sink the ferry. Mac wanted to know if we could get out of the car as we rode. I assured Reed that even though I had no idea how deep the water was, the ferry had never sunk as it chugged through the Potomac. The boat is like a barge so once the cars load, there really is no place to stand and enjoy the ride. If you do get out of your car, you are most likely going to ingest a tremendouse amount of engine fumes and not have any better vantage point for gazing at the expanse of the Potomac River.
I didn’t care how fancy the boat was, I was just happy for the distraction. The boys had raised the level of bickering to a fever pitch on the way there. Not only was I saying all the things my mom used to say when I was a kid but my mom was also throwing in some classic lines as well. So, we were a rolling mom-cliche as we cut our way through the countryside.
Once we had reached the Virginia shoreline we were only minutes from the outlets. We were all charmed by the winding, tree-lined road leaving the boat ramp. The ensuing silence was a welcome respite from the escalating spats between the boys.
The peace was short-lived as the excitement of spending my money got the kids revved up again. They scanned the stores and shouted out names as we looked for parking. As any outlet veteran knows, parking is a strategic affair. You have to be in the middle of the complex whether there are stores there that appeal to you or not. Otherwise, you can’t drop off your bags and keep shopping. So, the kids were all yelling at me as I pulled the car in next to the Maidenform outlet and Jones New York located squarely in the middle yet no where near Nike or Under Armour.
I had a moment of real concern for mom. She is only here once or twice a year and has no idea that shopping with the kids is quick and endless all at the same time. There are so few stores that interest the boys in any Mall or outlet that it can go by very quickly. However, as they push, shove and insult their way through the complex it can seem as if it will go on forever.
To prove the point, Mac dispensed with Reebok in record time while the rest of the crew headed to the Restrooms. The pack them moved on to Nike. It is here that my eye wandered to the Vitamin Store across the way and I pondered the possibility that they may carry a mild sedative for me. I gave the boys a budget of $39.99 for gym shoes and they proceeded to bring me at least 50 pairs of shoes that are over that figure by $5 or $10.
Although the school dictates that the gym shoes have to be black or white with just a little color, the kids interpretations of this vary wildly. I ran out of creative ways to say “Those shoes are cool, but no.” I finally managed to drag the boys out of there having purchased nothing by promising to come back if we find nothing else.
We had much better luck at the Factory Family Shoe Store securing options for nearly everyone except Mac who, I feared, would never find anything in budget that met his exacting standards. As it turned out, Reed’s shoes were two different sizes with no other mates so we had to leave his gym shoes behind.
Apparently, begging works up an appetite because the kids were “starving” after only two or three stores. The outlet stores may offer bargain shopping but not bargain dining. Any substantial savings I may have seen had been eaten up in the food court.
Mac and I separated from the group and left them to explore. We had great success at Vineyard Vines where Mac secured chinos in Nantucket Red and Sky blue and Old Navy offered uniform shorts and shirts for less than $15. Finally, success. Unfortunately, no more shoes. We headed for the car slightly dejected with a lot of items left on the shopping list.
As we pulled out of the shopping center, Mac noted folks sitting in lawn chairs on the grassy knoll above the store signs. The boys proceeded to make up scenarios for why they might be hanging out there. I tuned them out as I focused on the police cars and cones set up on the road just ahead of me. It appeared as if the westbound side of the road was closed. We crawled along east bound looking for the cause of the closure.
Then it hit me. I had read that the 9/11 Memorial Motorcycle Motorcade was riding through western Virginia en route from Shanksville, PA to the Pentagon. The flashing road sign confirmed it. This road was going to be closed for hours in anticipation of the passage of the motorcycles.
It never occured to me that the kids would have no idea what a Memorial Ride was so I explained it as simply as I could. As we turned from the main highway onto the road leading to the ferry, I pulled over onto the shoulder. My plan was to hang out for fifteen minutes. If the motorcade came, then we would hop out and watch it. If it didn’t appear in the allotted time, we would head toward the ferry home.
We had only been parked there long enough for me to locate the camera, when we heard the first tell-tale police motorcycle siren that signaled the beginning of any parade or motorcade. I told the boys and mom that we needed to hustle the few yards back up to the main road.
About 50 folks had gathered along the side of the highway with signs, flags and all manner of patriotic gear. They all began waving and cheering as the motorcycles came into view. The boys had a million questions about such a ride. They wanted to know how they all coordinated meals and stops for gas. They wanted to know what happened if you had to go to the bathroom and no one else did. They wanted to know how many motorcycles there were.
In between answering all their inquiries as best I could, my eyes got misty as I was taken back to that day almost ten years ago. Americans were Americans acting as one. Strangers hugged and flags flew high. There on the highway, in the middle of the Virginia countryside, we cheered and waved together. Pride in our country, in the face of what we have lost and despite the economic battles that plague our days, was palpable.
The single line of headlights spanned as far as the eye could see. I snapped pictures and tried to take it all in, knowing we couldn’t stay until the end. It was just too long. I signaled for our departure and we all climbed back over the guard rail to the car.
As we snaked our way to the ferry under a canopy of trees, I realized that despite the lack of packages in the car what we had gained on our little excursion was priceless.

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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

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