Like most other families, when I was a kid our family had its own particular rhythm. While our household wasn’t highly regimented, certain things like mealtimes, bedtimes, school, extra-curricular activities, and general guidelines for acceptable behavior and kid-endeavors remained constant.
While my brother and I often complained about our early seven pm bedtime and the fact that our parents were sticklers about us going to school and doing our homework earlier in the day rather than later before bed, we did it more out of habit than real dissatisfaction. We knew what each day would bring in terms of what to expect and what it would require of us. The boundaries that formed the perimeter of our world were firmly established, making us clear on the limits that we could push against. Ultimately, we knew that someone else was in control of the bigger picture, leaving us free to focus on having fun and discover the world and ourselves.
And so, on days when our father would declare that the regular rules didn’t apply, my brother and I were ecstatic. On these days, which would come without notice and for no discernible reason, he would take us on an adventure that lay outside of our preconceived notions of what was acceptable or possible.
Sometimes, it meant going to the biscuitariam. Unknown to residents outside of Montreal, these are stores that only sell cookies. From floor to ceiling, cookies line the walls in vats from which you can fill your bag in any mixture and quantity that your heart and appetite can image. Being given permission to go wild in these stores was like having an amplified Halloween dropped unexpectedly in our laps.
Other times, it meant going to a museum, out to lunch at an exotic restaurant whose food we didn’t even know existed, or going on a kid-friendly road trip down to the States for a shopping expedition or simply to taste some blueberry pie at a mom and pop roadside dinner that my dad had heard was out of this world.
As we grew up, the nature of these expeditions changed to incorporate our own dreams and secret desires. And, while they occurred less frequently with larger intervals between expeditions, their importance never diminished.
An adult, the memory of these childhood and young adult flights of fancy in which our father was both initiator and co-conspirator has taken on a larger significance. Not only did they allow us to explore our interests that lay outside of the prescribed educational curriculum and expose us to a variety of different and usual experiences, but they taught us the value of following our own curiosity and that, occasionally, breaking free of society’s established rules of conduct can be rewarding, allowing us to find hidden treasures in the ordinary.
As a parent, I find myself trying to find this same joy in exploring the known. And, as I discover the world with my son I find that with the gift of his vantage point, I too am learning to see things that I know so intimately that they are rote from a new angle. As my son grows and our escapades evolve to include things that I have never even thought of, it is my hope that he too will come to absorb the maxim that adventure is always just around the corner – it’s all a matter of perspective.