I’ve had an excellent conclusion to 2013, and it just so happens that I have the pictures to prove it.
Our post-Hannukah family travel schedule was altered a bit when road conditions and a need for new tires changed our plans a little — the false start became a full day of driving to the opposite side of the state to my father’s home in Orange City.
Orange City is a small town in Northwest Iowa that is very proud of it’s Dutch ancestry, and much of the signage and branding in Orange City is multilingual or borrows from Dutch influences quite a bit, in particular the Radio Shack that boldly declares that it is, in fact, de technologie winkel.
Culturally they are not at all similar, though spring and summer arrive and there are tulips everywhere you turn your head. In the midst of a very cold winter it’s much like the rest of Iowa; wind-blown, cold, and grey, which makes the thaw and subsequent bloom of tulips even more striking when it occurs.
Seeing toys I once played with when I was my daughter’s age is always somewhat surreal. On her first birthday my stepmother brought some of the old metal Tonka trucks1 that I used to play with and it was fantastic to see them and push them around again. My daughter likes to take these trucks around the house with her animals in their beds, carting them on thrilling trips from the bookcase to the sofa with the disproportionately large Panda, Kitty, and Monkey cargo.
The memories that are seemingly retained by these objects once your eyes see them become even more real when your fingers can touch them and familiarity begins to rise to the surface. It is easy, I think, to return to a place in your mind where you are a small child again when you are surrounded by things that were once yours at a young age. This is a really impressive thing when the surroundings themselves aren’t familiar to me — my father’s house is a home I never lived in, so I think I have a very different experience of going to see my Dad because the town isn’t my home town, and the house never had a bedroom I called my own. My sisters have a very different relationship with these surroundings and I think that the toys bring back fond memories, I suspect it’s easy for those memories to get lost in the midst of how familiar everything else around them is, even though they were too old to play with most of these toys in the house we were gathered in. That feeling of something so familiar and seeing my daughter play with toys I played with was pretty amazing.
Eventually the constant activity and lack of silence was driving my wife and I a little nuts, so we decided to take a trip out into the town and see more of Orange City, and visit some of the shops, get something cold and coffee-like, and let me take some pictures. We did have a few treasures acquired over the course of the day and I think being able to laugh and freely run around worrying only about ourselves for a while was an excellent idea. I was tired and cranky, but soon was only tired.
Later that afternoon after we got back to the house and the flurry of activity was ramping up in earnest, my Dad wanted to know if any of us wanted to see the site where his new office was being built. A gutted building post-demolition with tools and dirt and wires and exposed things in the ceiling? How could I possibly resist such opportunity to chase shadows and light?
The building is being shared by a couple of people and at one point served as a church for a congregation that was building a new sanctuary across town. It resulted in a fairly newly constructed building with ample space in a great location that is close to things you would want to be close to without being in the middle of it all. It’s going to be an excellent place to call The Office and I’m excited to see how it looks when they’re finished.
Now, in an effort to be more assertive and intentional about my photography, I must allow myself to be a little proud of the image of the thermostat hanging from the ceiling because it was taken in-hand with a relatively slow shutter (1/30s) and a very narrow focus (ƒ2) in very poor light. From a technical perspective it’s one of the hardest photographs I’ve ever taken and I’m rather fond of it. Brag over.
When the time came to open presents and conduct our gift exchange, my nephew and my daughter were very excited to have everyone in the same place and the two of them jumped around each other on an ottoman in the middle of the room and with aunts, uncles, gramma and grampa, and mommas and daddas all within arm’s reach it was clearly something to be very excited about. My daughter doesn’t quite get into opening presents yet but she does enjoy the reactions of other people when she does it, so she’s taken to “oooh”ing when she opens things, and then quickly surveying the rest of us to make sure we’re all suitably enthusiastic about what she’s uncovered. She’s a very funny kid and had a lot of fun, but with very different sleeping conditions and a cousin that doesn’t mind getting up close and personal when she really values her own Personal Space was often frustrating and unsettling for her. It was good to see both of them having a good time and jumping around instead of one of them having a good time and the other being mad about it.
But seriously? Bedtime at Gramma and Grampa’s house is not a lot of fun for Momma and Daddy. Naptime is equally unpleasant because there are so many things going on and people to play with and laps to sit on and books to read! ALSO: THE TOYS.
Eventually it was time to head home, and we had the fortune of coming across an exit off the interstate that promised food. We had two options available to us and the decision was easy; a McDonalds or Emma Jean’s Diner? It’s a trick question, because you go diner every time if you aren’t interested in failing at lunch — Bear had herself a grilled cheese sandwich and several attempts at drinking water from a non-sippy cup. She likes ice in drinks more than a little bit, but doesn’t quite understand proper flow control while drinking from a glass so there was quickly a small and cold pool of water on the table. She was certain that we needed to share our french fries2 because she’s our kid and our kid is going to need some fries whenever they’re available. That’s just science.
Several hours of driving and we were home again, another holiday season nearly under our belt. We managed to find a New Year party hosted by a colleague of LL’s and everyone enjoyed having a wee child running around, even though it involved an early bedtime nap so that we could wake her up and take her out at 11pm — she was a real trooper about it.
2014 is already teed up to be a very big year for the Iowa City Lundbergs and it’s likely to have some growth associated with it and sometimes that isn’t easy. Even so, closing the book on the last twelve months feels satisfying and I even got to finally throw my wife a birthday party which is much more difficult than you may realize but the greatest gift I could give that woman was relieving her of the tasks associated with planning such a thing and I think I managed to pull that off with ease. The hardest parts are usually the ones that make us more acutely aware of the things we have and share, and eternally grateful for all of them and the people that enable it all.