That Time I Pretended…

I love the beauty of the outdoors. I can scarcely think of anything as lovely as a sunset, coastal storm, or mountain view (with the exception of babies, people. I’m not unfeeling!). My husband is the same. He finds his greatest peace, greatest sense of self, in nature. In fact, he’s planned his trip-of-a-lifetime for this fall—hiking the Alps!

Little wonder then that we often try to take our children in nature. We want to cultivate this love of the outdoors in our children. We hope they will find the beauty of this earth, see the hand of a perfect creator, and become better people because of it. 

But, every single time…

Gnashing of teeth. Unearthly screams. Flailing at the sight of the smallest bug. Complaints of the heat. Crying when separated by modern toilets. Helplessness. More flailing. More gnashing of teeth. And, so much whining. 

Then, a week later (or however long), I somehow forget my children seem incapable of being outdoors and we try again.

As time has proved, I find myself dealing with the same things all over again…

Gnashing of teeth. Unearthly screams. Flailing at the sight of the smallest bug. Complaints of the heat. Crying when separated by modern toilets. Helplessness. More flailing. More gnashing of teeth. And, so much whining. 

Well, I tried again on Saturday. Mark and I took the kids up to a nature park. Basically, it’s a paved path through beautiful scenery, hardly even comparable to a hike. And, what should have been predictable to us, became once more irritating…

Gnashing of teeth. Unearthly screams. Flailing at the sight of the smallest bug. Complaints of the heat. Crying when separated by modern toilets. Helplessness. More flailing. More gnashing of teeth. And, so much whining. 

It all started with the sign in the parking lot. Basically, it looked something like this (but with actual pictures…). 

The craziness was UPPED. RATTLESNAKES?!?! POISON IVY?!?! Oh my. 

We reached the pinnacle of madness just as we stopped beneath the shade of a giant tree—a tree with an unusually large canopy, a tree with tangled and gnarly roots and branches, a tree that looked straight out of a Tinkerbell movie. 

My creativity spun, and suddenly, I found myself speaking crazy. “Shhhhh…do you know what this place is?” I pointed to a birdhouse (drilled into the side of the tree at shoulder-height). “The fairy king’s throne.” 

Hushed silence overtook the small band of crying children. My girls grew reverent, my little boy wide-eyed. 

“Yes, this is the gathering place of the fairies.” I pointed between the leaves, where the sunlight peeked through. “At night, fireflies light this area, and the fairy king summons his people. If you are careful, if you are quiet, you might see a fairy.” 

We walked in silence, and then something ridiculous happened. Words came out of my mouth. Silly words. Embarrassing words. But fun words. 

“There are certain songs,” I said, leading my entranced children, “certain melodies, that call the fairies.” 

My 6-year-old’s eyes were as round as walnuts. 

“Fairy friends, fairy friends, 

Come out to play. 

Fairy friends, fairy friends, 

See us today.”

I have no idea where these words or the tune came from. Well actually, after reflecting a while, I believe the tune stemmed from the recesses of my mind—a mixture of “Come little children” from Hocus Pocus and “Flower Gleam and Glow” from Tangled.

Then, to the miraculous fates above, the leaves rustled. The wind picked up. Branches snapped. I’m not even kidding! 

“Fairies!” Ivy yelled, pointing to the brush. “I heard them!” 

My 10-year old screamed. “Fairies aren’t real!” 

“How do you know?” I quipped. “Don’t you think a God that can create humans and this perfect earth could create fairies too?” 

Please do not judge me for bringing God into this ruse. I just…I was too deep, SINGING for goodness sake. 

“Well, I guess…” my 10-year old said, clearly still skeptical. 

More hiking, more singing, more rustling ensued. Every time I sang, the ground around us seemed to stir. This spurred my ridiculous display even more. I threw in some Disney Enchanted ahahaha’s (scaled operatic sounds), and my three younger children were enthralled! 

No more gnashing of teeth! Not a single complaint! NATURE ENJOYMENT. 

I only broke character a few times to smile, and that happened only because I saw my husband’s fascinated gaze, the amusement in his smile, and the mischief in his expression. It didn’t take me long to figure out that each time I sang, he would throw small pebbles into the brush beside me. He was acting the part of fairy, and the kids had no idea!

The nature walk became delightful. We climbed through secret passages of branches, finding homes of fairies. We heard the flapping of their wings. My 3-year-old saw a spark of color. 

The sun became very hot, and we started back to the car. By now, I was quite impressed with my charade. So, I sang a little closing song: 

“Goodbye my fairy friends,

I’ll see you once again…”

As soon as we reached the parking lot, my darling 6-year-old came giggling-screaming. “Mommy! Mommy! I heard something! I heard the tiniest ‘bye’. I heard it! The fairies said goodbye!” 

She was convinced to her soul. Her expression, her smile, her authentic excitement—it was palpable. And contagious. 

I was beginning to feel a bit guilty…but then we got into the car, and my 8-year-old said, “This was the best day ever!” 

“That was so fun!” another said. 

“Is it a holiday?” a third said. “Why are we having so much fun?” 

Mark bit back a smile, and my guilt disappeared. Finally, when the kids were distracted, he leaned over. “Wow, Heather, I’m super impressed.” 

A strange sense of pride washed over me. My out-of-this-world imagination is good for something besides writing books. 

Maybe our nature walk was not as perfect and reflective as I had hoped, but my children enjoyed being outdoors! They forgot about bugs and heat and snakes and poison ivy. I’m calling it a win. 

But I can’t wait to recount the story when they’re older. I think we’ll have some good laughs. 

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Next Year in Havana

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From Amazon:

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. 

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

My Take: 

I really enjoyed the way Cleeton shared two women’s journeys, separated by generations. Interestingly enough, their lives mirror one another in many aspects. I can’t help but wonder if that happens more often than we know. Maybe we would do well to learn more about the lives of our parents, grandparents, and so forth. 

Some of my favorite parts…

Elisa, a girl of nineteen, fell in love with a revolutionary. Wars, water, and time separated them. Elisa thought Pablo dead. When Marisol, their granddaughter, questions Pablo about why he did not go to Elisa, he says:

“It’s not the life I imagined for myself, the one Elisa and I dreamed of, but the older you get, the more you learn to appreciate the moments life gives you. Getting them certainly isn’t a given, and I feel blessed to have carved out a life here where I could be happy even if it wasn’t quite the happiness I envisioned, if the things I dreamed of never quite came to pass.”

Cleeton’s wisdom rattled me. Life rarely turns out how we expect, but there are moments—moments that can steal your breath, moments that can warm your heart. I love this idea of enjoying what life has to offer, even if it doesn’t go exactly as you planned or originally hoped for. 

Later on, Pablo explains further:

“It was enough to hope that she was happy.”

Marisol: “It feels so incomplete.” 

Pablo: “Life so often is. It’s messy, too. This isn’t the ending, Marisol. When you’re young, life’s punctuation so often seems final when it’s nothing more than a pause. When I learned Elisa had married, I thought our story had ended. Accepted it. And now, almost sixty years later, you’re here. I have a granddaughter. A son, a new family. A piece of Elisa. You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures…

“We all had a vision; we had a plan. Fate, God, Fidel, they all laughed at that plan. I thought I was on one path, and it turned out to be something else entirely. That’s doesn’t mean it’s all bad, though.” 

Seriously. If I had a dollar for everything in my life that turned out differently than I envisioned… I’d have more than $50 for sure. Ha. Really, life is much more like a switch-back hike than a straight road. Nothing is so clear or so easy or so direct. 

Overall, I enjoyed this read. I found the story of Elisa and Pablo most compelling, but I loved watching Marisol piece things together. I learned about the history of Cuba, and I once again fell in love with the states. One of my favorite quotes at the end highlights this fact. Marisol grew up believing she would find a part of her home in Cuba. However, when she finally gets a chance to visit Cuba (after Fidel’s death), she finds that Cuba is not home. She says:

“There is no home for us in a world where we can’t speak our minds for fear of being thrown in prison, where daring to dream is a criminal act, where you aren’t limited by your own ability and ambition, but instead by the whims of those who keep a tight rein on power.” 

My only complaint, my personal sensitivity. I’m not a fan of some of the PG-13 scenes. 

Happy reading, 
<3 H

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