A sun drenched Sunday morning in autumn is a glorious thing. The air somehow smells both crisp and earthy. It's the kind of day that you feel pressured to enjoy as winter is just around the corner and a time that you can go out without wearing a coat may not happen again for six months. A few weeks ago, we experienced such a day. The boys were antsy and needed to get out of the house as we embarked on our half term break from school. The promise of seven more days without school was prominent in our minds and moods.
As always, we struggled to leave the house and left an hour later than planned. This was not helped by the fact that the clocks had changed the night before for daylight savings. My partner mentioned that we were leaving later than he had wanted to. I mentioned that he had not done anything to hurry the preparations along whilst in the house for the last hour or more. We then stared at the glowing golden and amber leaves along the A40 and only spoke to shush the children's shrill voices.
We soon arrived at the multi-story car park, and my partner proceeded to list all the reasons that arriving at this late hour and having such "ambitious" plans would end in certain disaster as we unpacked the kids from the car. As always, I told him to stop talking in less kind words. Also with my eyes.
We walked along the historical docks in Gloucester, bathed in sunshine, the water sparkling. The children's energy level was high and emotional states were variable. The twins and I stopped to take a few photos of them with their class mascots.
There is a program running in many primary school classrooms whereby parents are tortured by being forced to take toy stuffed animals home for the weekend as a "reward" for good behaviour in class. In our case, we had the toys for the entire week of half term break. It is understood that you will show off as much as possible by taking these (definitely needing a good wash at this point) toys to as many locations as humanly possible and photographing the child with the toy in each place. Then you must struggle to remember how to get a photo on your phone to be printed on your unreliable printer eventually asking your partner to do it, who then comes back with two photos printed that take an entire page each, so now you need to remember to purchase a new colour ink cartridge on top of everything. Then you must assist your child in adding their photos and writing to a book shared by the class. This special privilege is in addition to regular homework, which took us an entire afternoon- maths sheets, spellings, reading, and dioramas. Somehow this is an appropriate amount of work for six year olds.
My partner made it known that he was disappointed that the toys were with us at all and I have to admit that I felt the same. It is hard enough to keep track of our three children and adding the toys to the mix was a bit much. Especially as I would feel bad if we lost them (mainly the children but I suppose the toys as well). My compromise was that we would bring the class toys on this one outing and leave them at home for the rest of the week. Truth be told I put the toys in the school bags as soon as the boys lost interest so that they would not be misplaced. Luckily we are not competitive, so only taking the toys on one outing was fine with us all. Unluckily, having our photos printed so large it looks like we were competing in a different way.
Eventually we made it to High Street and then we split up. I took Mr. G, Mr. L, and the school toys to the noodle house and my partner took Mr. K with him to McDonalds. I definitely got the better deal because High Street McDonalds in Gloucester on a Sunday afternoon is the busiest place in all of England. After procuring our food, we set out for a late lazy picnic of Happy Meals and Noodle Boxes in view of Gloucester Cathedral.
Gloucester Cathedral is a large ornate imposing Romanesque and Gothic structure that existed in some form since 678 AD. The cathedral boasts a stained glass window featuring the earliest images of golf. It houses an elaborate Tomb of King Edward II. It somehow survived the bombings of World War II, much of Gloucester did not. It has one of the largest stained glass windows in all the of the UK. The Cathedral has been a filming location for many popular movies, notably the cloisters are featured as the hallways of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. It is far more exciting than any building in Cheltenham although no one likes to talk about it. We love visiting the Cathedral, I have lost track of how many times we have been.
This time was special because there was a traveling art exhibit by Bristolian artist, Luke Jerram. The Museum of the Moon is an inflatable installation artwork that measures seven metres in diameter and is decorated with printed imagery of the moon's surface as collected from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It is like being able to see the actual moon up close, and it is absolutely beautiful. I had already been to visit the art piece, but I was sure that my children would enjoy it and I was excited to show it to them.
As we ate, we noticed that there was a queue of people waiting to get in. My previous visit had been on a Wednesday morning and I walked right in, it had not even occurred to me that there would be a wait to see the moon on the weekend. My partner suggested that we skip the Cathedral and head home rather than stand in line. To be fair, waiting of any sort is Mr. K's absolutely worst skill, so I could see why my parter was concerned. I said that I would go wait with the twins and he and Mr. K could walk around.
Then it happened. The fight that had been brewing. My partner told me that he felt like it didn't matter what he wanted because when I planned on doing something I am so stubborn that I ALWAYS follow through even when it would be wiser not to. I then told him that I thought he was foolish because he would get so close to seeing or doing something amazing and then abort mission as soon as things felt difficult or did not go according to plan. It's true. I am so very stubborn and he is a little foolish. But that foolish man ended up going to see the Museum of the Moon, he even admitted that it was very cool. Mr. K loved it most of all, because in our struggle to get there, we forgot to tell him what we were doing, which is something that you are really supposed to do for autistic children with communication difficulties. When Mr. K walked into the cathedral and saw that beautiful moon, his face lit up and he could not take his eyes off it, even when walking under it and nearly toppling over or bumping into strangers. He whispered "the moon the moon the moon the moon" over and over. It was the sweetest thing ever.
Mr. G and Mr. L got their picture of the school toys with the moon. We all enjoyed walking around the cathedral in the afternoon light as the sun dropped in the sky at the alarming speed that is so noticeable the day after a time change. Were our children perfectly behaved? Absolutely not! We bribe the children with the promise of a treat after an outing, and only Mr. K got a treat that day. I don't even think my partner or myself deserved a treat as we had a public fight at a religious building on a Sunday, something we have not done for years but used to do every week when we went to church for all the wrong reasons.
Sometimes you take a foolish man with you on day trips all around England. And you love him despite his folly and complaining and he loves you back. And you realize that he cannot be all that foolish for going along with all your wild plans and realizing that adventure makes you happy. Sometimes you forget which of you is the foolish one and which of you is the stubborn one. Sometimes you get annoyed that everything has to be such a struggle, but then you remember that you are very very stubborn, and stubborn always trumps foolish.