Tuesday, March 5, 2024

A Surge of Spontaneity

 Last week, I had the pleasure of spending a day in New Jersey with my daughter. She'd been traveling in New England, and was looking for a way to break up the trip from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, so I suggested that we meet in New Jersey. Since I teach only three days a week this semester, we could meet up on a non-teaching day, right?

"Of course we can!" the spontaneous side of me said.

The practical, routine-oriented side of me retorted almost immediately. "Are you out of your mind?" 

The practical, routine-oriented side of me is not only more assertive than the spontaneous side of me, but she's a lot louder as well. In fact, while the spontaneous side of me is fading with age, the practical, routine-oriented side of me is only getting bossier.

Which side of me wins depends a lot on who's arguing for the comfort zone. Ditch the grading and go do something fun for an hour? Point, spontaneous side.

Flip my week upside down and potentially fall behind so that I have to play catch-up later on? Two points to my practical, routine-oriented side. One for an argument I can't refute and one for dramatic effect. 

My practical, routine-oriented side is very, very good at dramatic effect.

But my daughter was excited about the plan, so I subdued my practical, routine-oriented side and got packing.

One reason my practical side wins so often is that it's very good at making me forget that the plans hatched by my spontaneous side are usually worth upending the routine. 

This trip was no exception.

My daughter and I arrived at the hotel within half an hour of each other and, from that point on, my practical side didn't stand a chance. In fact, I think she might have actually stayed in Pennsylvania, staging a (dramatic) protest, but I can't be sure. I didn't miss her, so I didn't look for her.

My daughter and I had a great dinner that evening, then spent some time with my aunt, whom we haven't seen in a couple of years. We spent the next day roaming around the town where I spent my teenage years, the place I think of as home. I showed my daughter the houses I'd lived in, the schools my sister and I had attended, and the churches where I'd gone to youth group, one of which was also where my sister and brother-in-law got married. We walked through the library where I'd worked in the children's room when I was in middle school, and wandered in and out of the downtown stores. One of our favorites was Sparrow, a gluten-free establishment where my daughter could actually eat anything on the menu, and where we struck up conversations with the very helpful folks behind the counter and in the kitchen.

My parents sold the house in Haddonfield and downsized before my daughter celebrated her first birthday so, while she spent her first Christmas there, she has no memory of it at all. Not surprising, as she was barely a month old. 

As we wandered through the town, which has a LOT more restaurants than it did when I lived there, she was patient with my stories, even asking questions. Though the tenants in the storefronts have changed, the town itself doesn't seem to have changed much at all, something I found comforting.

There were so many things about this trip that were wonderful. A mother-daughter day with my grown- up girl. Spending time with my aunt. Visiting spaces that meant so much to me, and to my family, particularly my mom, who worked in the Borough Hall once up on a time (a place which was was, of course, a stop on last week's walking tour). Simply being back in a place I still call home. 

It's a day I want to remember for many reasons, not the least of which is what can happen when I let my spontaneous side come out to play. Age makes spontaneity harder for a multitude of reasons, but I'm lucky to have a daughter whose love of travel nudges me out of my comfort zone and into adventure.

I wonder where we'll go next. 

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