The wind gust caught the bright, green and yellow kite with its ribboned tail and lifted it just above the pine trees lining the front yard. The two young kids screamed in delight. Suddenly a down draft caused the flying machine to plunge to the lawn, digging a hole right at daddy's feet. The yells from the children seemed to say that was even better than watching the kite sail through the stormy sky.
The 4th of July weekend was a fabulous time for our clan. Everyone dashed north to Flagstaff to escape the 118 degree heat of the desert floor. Just two hours away thunderstorms, clouds, and 7,000 feet in elevation meant long pants, sweatshirts, and an invigorating 3 days of family memories. The house we rented was a great match for our needs: big kitchen and dining room table plus a large fenced-in backyard. There was a metal-roofed back porch that was perfect for listening to the rain pound down on Saturday afternoon while sipping coffee or holding a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea.
My wife, youngest daughter and I found ourselves on Sunday night in a smallish upstairs room in the historic Weatherford Hotel in downtown Flagstaff. Seven folks, holding flutes, a banjo, a few guitars, a violin, and a cello were sitting in a circle playing Irish music for their own enjoyment. A dozen spectators, sitting on chairs taken from the next door bar, were allowed to eavesdrop on their fun. The Irish Society of Flagstaff gathers in the same room every Sunday evening for a few hours to make music just for the fun of it. We stumbled across the event and took advantage of a unique experience to build a family memory that money couldn't buy.
Flagstaff is a tremendously attractive smallish city in northern Arizona. The home of Northern Arizona University, this town attracts more than its fair share of folks in tie-dyed shirts, flowing paisley-patterned skirts and peasant blouses. Everyone seems to have either a dog or mountain bike, or both. Young children are everywhere. People watching is an endless joy.
Downtown is packed with restaurants, bars, antique stores, and thousands of people enjoying free concerts, movies on the square and art festivals all summer long. An old-fashioned 4th of July parade, complete with kids on bikes, clowns, marching bands, and fire engines filled the streets Monday morning.
Our weekend was filled with what makes being part of a happy family so special. Playing Granddad to three adorable children makes it all so memorable. Even watching Lady and the Tramp for at least the 100th time was fun: the kids see it as fresh and new each time. Too bad adults don't take such pleasure in such simple joys.
My wife dug out a recipe for making "kick the can ice cream." At my age I am usually not fond of the "kick the can" expression. But, in this case I am all for it. The homemade vanilla ice cream that came out of the cans we kicked around the backyard for half an hour and then popped in the freezer, was fabulous, as good as any I have ever tasted.
We played Hearts and Texas Hold'em. We had picnics in the park, and spent hours on swings, climbing trees, and generally behaving silly on the playgrounds that seem to be on every street corner. The kids were fascinated by a three-legged dog and how it maneuvered so well. This provided a great teaching moment on overcoming handicaps and making the most of what you have.
Once again I was impressed by how wonderful my eldest daughter and son-in-law are at the tough job of parenting. Their kids are inquisitive, respectful, smart well beyond their years, bubbling over with personality, and not ashamed to show love for everyone.
A satisfying retirement is so much more than managing one's finances, or worrying about health problems. This 4th of July weekend in Flagstaff with family was rich beyond measure.