Posts Tagged ‘Urban Family’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

A few weeks ago, my friends and I had planned to venture away from the big city out into the rolling country for an autumnal outing and the corresponding wholesome goodness.

We were going to pick apples, a regular “Urban Family” Fall Fun event, set in rotation with the Cheese Days festival in Monroe, Wisconsin. On even years, we celebrate all things cheese. On odd years—sometimes very odd—we pick apples. Though always memorable, these outings are also reliably surreal.

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Urban Family in Wisconsin, with beer and a cheese necklace.

I’m a well-known proponent of tradition, and both agrarian activities embody much of what makes life good. Honestly, what we do is irrelevant; the fun we attempt to have and the time spent together is what I value.

Despite our best efforts to enjoy a picturesque autumn afternoon, we ultimately endure a bizarre experience sure to be anecdotal fodder for years to come.

I think the first outing to pick apples in 2009 went rather well. I cannot recall the name of the farm, though I am certain it had hydraulic cannons for shooting apples at targets, which we all agreed was a good sign. We learned later that sort of thing, though vastly entertaining, is quite illegal in Illinois. City folk dodged an apple bullet there.

In 2010, we discovered the cheese festival and decided it was worth a visit. We enjoyed a pleasant day, though many oddities did ensue. Here, we encountered a two-hour cheese parade, with cheese-inspired floats and dancers and bands enough to make anyone smile.

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Hula Hooping it up

Sure that more fall fun could be had, we went apple picking, too, except there were no apples. We’d come too late in the season, and they were fresh out. We decided to enjoy every other bit of down-home goodness on that farm, including the corn maze, and hula hoops, put out, no doubt, in a desperate attempt to distract from the “no apples” sign.

In 2011, we became convinced that harvest time in the orchards and harvest time in the hallmark stores are quite different. By the time we got to the orchards in late October, when everything feels like autumn, there weren’t many apples left, but at least there were some.

The next year’s Cheese festival was meant to be great fun. However, we missed the parade by going a day early because I misread the schedule. We did our best to see what else the Cheese Festival had to offer, including a “cow milking contest.” I’m really glad we didn’t miss that, though the crowds were rowdy for such a natural diversion.

Over the succeeding years, when attempting fall family fun, we’ve encountered a variety of implausible, if not completely unavoidable difficulties.

Naturally, the unexpected activities we engage in when everything else has gone awry have become central to our shared good times. If there is any fun to be had, we find it together.

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Cows on parade

2009: It begins—all went well, leading us to believe that a delightful day in the country was well within our grasp.

2010: Our First Cheese Fest: Unclear who discovered this gem—we loved it, and vowed to return. There was the occasional oddity, like cows in the parade and a woman handing me her child, but it was largely a win.

2010: All Seasons Orchard—no apples! We might have expected too much fun from one autumn.

2011: Kuiper’s farm, a bad year for apples, but at least there were a few. Sadly, cider was also in short supply: only small cups of cider, no gallons for sale.

2012: Cheese Fest: We went a day early (my fault) and missed the parade. A stunning blow.

kristam (2)

The ultimate photo “shoot,” as there’s a pumpkin gun down field aiming at their heads.

2013: Jonamac Orchard, a good outing, despite the fact that during the “piano in a field” photo, Kris & Tammy narrowly escaped being killed by a flying pumpkin.

2014: Cheese Fest, the Centennial. The Boy Scout grilled cheese is sadly absent, and we were forced to make some bad dairy choices, see “Jumbo Chocolate and Ice Cream Plate”

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Postcard happy

That brings us up to date.

This year’s attempt at fall fun was marred, once again, by a surreal obstacle.

When I arrived to pick up the rental car, I was quite dumbfounded to discover that though my reservation existed, the car did not. There were no cars, nor would be, for the next several hours.

No apples in the orchard. No cars at the car rental agency.

This year’s autumnal outing has been rescheduled for Saturday, October 17th

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

It’s kind of awful, but people need to be reminded to enjoy the holidays, and I am here to do just that.

I’ve always had rather mixed feelings about Thanksgiving celebrations. The thing that most people (especially women) realize early on is that Thanksgiving is a lot of work. I used to wonder where the reward was. Eventually, I determined that the true gift on any holiday is the time spent together, and all holidays only happen once. In a few short days, Thanksgiving 2013 will have come and gone, and I intend to try to relax and enjoyeat_drink_enjoy_1 all that.

A Thanksgiving meal requires at minimum three hours of preparation (this doesn’t include any deep cleaning or holiday decoration). The clean-up also requires several hours, sometimes overflowing into the next morning and beyond. This is all fine. Family meals are important rituals, going back millennia. It is not the preparation time that irks me; rather, it is the speed with which some guests gobble a meal and pack-up to head home, or often to the next event.

I sympathize. I understand that many people are expected to visit two or more households on Thanksgiving. I used to do the same thing when I lived in Ohio. We all know in the end, we are fortunate to have so many loved ones inviting us to visit and dine and drink. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded: enjoy your holiday! Perhaps arrive a bit earlier and stay a bit later if only to allow yourself time to have a bit more time to savor.

No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving (or even if you don’t), try hard to be present in each moment. Enjoy the simple act of laying the table. Marvel at the mismatched china and silverware that hold the secret stories of the origins of families and friends. Waiting for guests is something we do on every important event. If one family happens to be late, relish the moments of waiting; there is nothing to be done, just sit down and anticipate their arrival. Someday, they won’t be able to come to dinner at all.

Nice-FranceSome of my favorite Thanksgiving meals have been less traditional. In 1999, I celebrated Thanksgiving in Nice, France, with my cherished friend, Leah. She was living there, teaching English. We went out shopping to get items for the meal, but because we were in France, where turkeys aren’t in abundance and Thanksgiving doesn’t exist, the closest we could get to a turkey was a chicken. We shared that Thanksgiving with her French neighbor and her Moroccan boyfriend. After the meal, we went to the Irish Pub Leah and her friends frequented. Here, I drunkenly explained our mysterious Thanksgiving traditions to the owner.

In my terrible French, I said, “Nous mangeons trop. Nous regardons la tele. Nous regarder le football Américain.”

We enjoyed ourselves immensely. We didn’t stress because we weren’t required to get it right; no one had any expectations. We were free to enjoy where we were and the people with whom we shared the day.

Many times, altering holidays helps alleviate feeling overwhelmed. Our day-to-day calendars might have to remain unchanged, but celebrating doesn’t have to be limited to UFThanksjust one day. Since many of us will be scattering by holiday travel, I hosted a wonderful, imperfect Thanksgiving with my Urban Family this past Sunday at my place. My heavens, they are a gorgeous group. More importantly, they are all smart and funny (or laughable) and unique and quirky and loving, which is the way I prefer my family members to be, and spending time with them is always reason to celebrate (it doesn’t hurt that Kris had the foresight to bring a “signature cocktail”).

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the meal isn’t perfect. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even want a perfect meal. Laughter is the lasting result of dealing with the beautiful imperfections of life. One of my absolutely favorite memories is when my exacting mother over-cooked the roles. My hysterical brother-in-law Dana determined “these must be the wheat rolls.” Years later, we still reference the “wheat rolls,” so the humor and the moment live on.

When you find yourself rushing or running around or raising your voice to those loved ones for whom you are trying to make the holidays so perfectly special, I invite you to pause, and follow Kurt Vonnegut’s suggestion; “I urge you to notice when you are happy and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

It certainly is.