My grandchildren, lured by the promise of quad rides, canoe rides, a chance to shoot a real gun and the opportunity to help band saw-whet owls, were ready.
In fact, they were more than ready. They were pumped.
A lot of 11 and 13 year-olds would not have willingly loaded up their parent’s SUV with pillows and blankets and video games and strange music and headphones and iPhones and iPads and subjected themselves to eight hours of driving time just to do any or all of the above. But these kids did and, in fact, quite happily!
For the children, the road trip was a very long prelude to the fun things to come. Very long!
I’m sure there are ways to shorten the drive to Prince Albert, Sask. somehow, but weirdly enough no one in my family has every figured that out. We just drive.
“East,” I say, but quietly to my daughter, the driver. “We just need to go east.”
And in the end, we did go east, but first, because apparently the trip to PA isn’t quite long enough we went the wrong way first.
The little trip backwards was not a good thing and for a great many miles no one said much of anything at all. It was a time when silence was truly golden, and until the cut like a knife type of tension in the vehicle dissipated, that rule held.
We just drove, staring in silence at the road and the fields and the sky and being silently hopeful our wheels were turning in the right direction.
Finally, relaxed and confident we weren’t actually heading home, the sounds of silence faded away and someone turned “kid speak” on.
“How much farther? I’ve been in this car for a hundred hours? Are we almost there? Are we at least in Saskatchewan? Mom, tell him to stop looking at me like that. He is so bugging me. No, she is bugging me. Can I sit in the front? Can I? Can I? You wrecked my headphones. Why do you always do that? How could you eat every single chocolate bar? I think I’m going to be carsick.”
Of course, as in all road trips, the end comes eventually, and, finally, after we had driven past three hundred thousand fields that stretched endlessly from the road to the horizon and looked surprisingly similar to the field we had just passed and the one we passed before that, we found the plastic owl.
Seeing the plastic owl perched majestically at the entrance of the long and winding driveway was a good thing. It meant we had arrived.
And so we spilled out of the vehicle, our limbs slightly numb and our brains foggy from seeing nothing but fields and sky and more of the same for such a long time, and pasted on plastic smiles.
We assured our host the trip was good, we loved all things about Saskatchewan and we were ready for the fun to begin.
I must admit I was a little worried the kids would not realize the great opportunities that lay before them in the good old rural prairie province, and might end up doing kid things like nothing and more of the same. I could not have been more wrong. And for the short time we visited, my citified grandchildren, without any resistance at all on their part, became quite thoroughly countrified.
I had made a list of things to do because I felt like I should, being the grandma and all.
But, really they needed no list. They just seemed to know.
I watched them watching the northern lights flicker and dance across the sky and I knew without saying they felt the appropriate sense of awe they should feel when gazing upon the wonders of the heavens.
As for me, I just felt grateful for my grandchildren and for the northern lights.
And I watched them take a tiny owl captured in mid flight in a mist net, and hold the bird ever so gently and observe it being weighed, measured, banded and finally released and I was pleased.
And it turned out I didn’t have to tell them about the thrill of riding the quad, or the fact the machine was very powerful and big. They drove it with equal amounts of excitement and respect!
And I didn’t need to talk about the absolute tranquility and beauty experienced while floating down a slough in an old wooden canoe or the almost giddy excitement of aiming a firearm at a target like a coke can filled with water and watching it shatter when the bullet hit it, dead on.
I didn’t have to tell them any of that stuff. They, in fact, told me!
Treena Mielke is editor of The Rimbey Review and is a columnist for Black Press.