Today I’d like to introduce a new themed thread to my blog: day trips with Teddy.
Making these trips is a conscious and new decision for me. For the past several years I’ve tended to use Friday mornings for much more prosaic purposes, primarily going to the grocery store. Teddy was usually a good sport about this, although I’m sure my willingness to buy him a big cookie at our co-op is part of the reason why. But as I was reviewing pieces of my book manuscript lately and remembering that year when my only job was to traveling around with Tommy and writing about it I realized that Teddy has never had the benefit of that kind of attention or adventure. And seeing how much he loved going to Paris this summer made me realize that he would probably enjoy time with Mommy that didn’t involve sitting in a grocery cart.
So. The grocery shopping will be fit in at some other time and Teddy and I will set forth to conquer the Mid-Atlantic in a series that I will chronicle here. I expect that some of the places we visit will be old familiars and others will be new, but my goal is to ferret out all of the possible attractions within a 30- to 90-minute drive from our house and visit them.
We started today as a threesome because Tommy didn’t have school. I decided that we should go to Havre de Grace in Maryland. This town sits at a particularly propitious and lovely spot, the place where the wide Susquehanna River ends its 444-mile course and spills into the expanse of the Chesapeake Bay. It is an environmentally sensitive place, a wetland, as well as a historic one, site of exploration by the Jamestown colonists and a battle in the War of 1812 that destroyed the city.
It wasn’t the nicest day, humid and spitting rain (although it never did what we really need it to do and start raining in earnest). We headed right for the water when we got to town and discovered a fantastic playground right by the marina. Teddy particularly liked that he could look at the “ships” as he called them while he rode on the swings, and both the boys really liked the large plastic sea monster, which Tommy climbed despite an abundance of spider webs.
We made our way over to the battery. I had read that Havre de Grace had a lighthouse, at Concord Point and was delighted to see how small it is, a doll’s lighthouse only 36 feet high, tidy and white-washed. I’d like to come back on a weekend when it and the keeper’s house across the street are open. A plaque out front told us that the lighthouse was built in 1827, is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the United States (I’m pretty sure this is inaccurate, but it may be the oldest in Maryland), and that it had for many years been cared for by the O’neil family, who got the post because they had been distinguished for their bravery during the War of 1812. And indeed, on the other side, we learned from yet another plaque that:
This canon of the war of 1812 marks the site of the battery on Concord Point where John O’neil served the guns single handed during the British attach upon Havre de Grace May 3, 1813 until disabled and captured. He was released from the British frigate Maidstone through the intercession of his young daughter Matilda to whom Admiral Cockburn gave his gold-mounted snuff box in token of her heroism. As a tribute to the gallant conduct of her father the citizens of Philadelphia presented him a handsome sword.
The boys and I agreed that they would certainly talk any admiral who had captured me and Matt to release us.
After we had wandered around on the wooden boardwalk that the town has built along the wetlands at the bay’s edge (called, rather grandly, The Promenade) admiring a family of ducks that we agreed must be teenagers since they were too big to properly be called babies we made our way into the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum. It was, unfortunately under a certain amount of construction, but we still managed to enjoy it. We looked at the small collection of artifacts, most of them related to fishing in the bay (first by the native peoples, then by commercial fishermen, and finally in the early twentieth century, by wealthy Washingtonians on holiday). They also had several ancient rock carvings (petroglyphs) and an invitation to interpret and date them, which Tommy did (“A sun, a bag, and I don’t know”). There were skiffs and canoes everywhere to look at, including a birch-bark canoe. And around the back we found a small reproduction of a Nanticoke camp, complete with a small wigwam, a fire pit, more canoes, and a drying rack for game. All of this occasioned a long talk about the differences between how these people lived and our household. There were the obvious ones (no potty or refrigerator) but Tommy surprised me by waxing a bit poetic. “Look at our backyard,” he said, “it’s small. This [here he gestured broadly around him] was where those kids got to play. All of this was their backyard.”
The boys chose damp bench on the boardwalk to eat our picnic lunch. The bay is framed by rolling hills and we watched a parade of boats passing in front of them, from sailboats to speedboats to a barge being pushed by a tugboat. After the third magnificent bird that I didn’t recognize flew within feet of us I decided that we definitely need to invest in a good bird book and some binoculars. I had thought that all of the water fowl would inspire the boys to visit the decoy museum, which was right behind us, but all they wanted to do was go back to the playground. And so we did before visiting Bomboy’s, the local ice-cream parlor where Tommy ordered Snickerdoodle and Duck, Duck Goose (vanilla with chocolate-covered peanut butter chunks) and Teddy had banana and chocolate.
There was a time when I would have felt like we had to see all of the museums in town, when I would not have wanted to go to the playground twice, when I would have felt like the trip wasn’t worth it if we didn’t hang out all day. But I have learned that the best way to travel with kids is to think big about the important stuff (replacing trips to the grocery store with more ambitious jaunts) and small about the details (less is definitely more when it comes to museums and little ones). And besides, I also realized that the beauty of these day trips is that we can always come back another time.