The Keys to Family Fun
Are you ever nagged by the thought that you don’t do enough that is creative, entertaining, recreational, or just plain fun with the family?
I am. So on a recent Sunday, we headed to Terratima, a rambling collection of log buildings and cross-country ski trails near Rocky, for some elusive quality time.
Terratima’s 40 km of groomed trails amble over gorgeous forested hills, along creeks, and past an abandoned one room schoolhouse. We started from the massive but cozy “Sees the Sun” lodge, a log building complete with fireplace, piano, and a civilized collection of books. I would have been content to settle in with the lodge copy of The Letters of E.B. White, a favourite essayist, but there’s little family interaction in that.
I decided to demonstrate my creativity on the first hill, leading from the lodge to the creek, by taking a short-cut. Through a small spruce tree.
During the day, I also used a number of innovative stopping maneuvers to keep the family amused. The snowplow was inappropriate for Terratima’s set tracks, so I demonstrated such techniques as:
• the corkscrew (pointed head first, with spinning motion);
• the Mason-Dixon (one half goes south, one north); and
• the tree tackle (no description necessary).
At the start of the day, my wife had appointed me navigator. She is in management, so she’s good at delegating, supervising, and conducting performance appraisals.
Picking one’s way through 40 km of intersecting, criss-crossing cross-country ski trails is bit like picking a 6-49 number. There aren’t that many trails, just as there aren’t that many numbers in the lottery. But when one considers the possible combinations of those simple elements, the likelihood of successful navigation is roughly equivalent to the 6-49’s thirteen million-to-one odds.
In the late afternoon, with the solid grey skies darkening, our manager decided we should head back to the lodge. At which point I mentioned that the last half dozen trails we had been on bore little resemblance to the lines on my map. My daughter, who was leading, came to an intersection and called for directions. “Pick one,” I yelled back.
This was a mistake. The mistake was not in getting lost, but in admitting the fact. Actually, I was not exactly lost so much as curious why the tracks often led off in directions which didn’t match the map. I had a general clue that we were moving in approximately the right direction, give or take a few degrees. Sort of.
I was simply encouraging independence, while hoping the kids would pick up a love of orienteering, a popular sport at Terratima. When we finally emerged onto a familiar trail, the rest of the family hit an adrenaline high that carried them homeward in record time.
As we arrived back at the lodge, everyone was in a jovial mood. It’s amazing what a slight fear of nature, ever so skillfully introduced, can do for a family’s appreciation of buildings and automobiles.
Of course, the family would have been even more appreciative of our automobile if I had been able to produce keys. I searched in vain as the family dog, whom we had left in the van while we skied, peered through the glass in silent bewilderment. The humans in our party clamped teeth firmly on their tongues and demonstrated remarkable restraint. Given some of my spectacular high-speed spills, they apparently had no trouble believing that the keys might have been hurtled deep into the hinterland.
Informed of our predicament, the Kennedys who own Terratima demonstrated the class, calm and competence for which they are renowned, calling all over western Alberta to find us a locksmith.
A well rounded family outing should include an educational element, so when the locksmith arrived some time later I encouraged all to watch how he laboriously wiggled the key in the lock, filed, wiggled the key, and filed again in pursuit of the right notches.
The children, though, chose the cozy lodge over this parking lot night school. The locksmith told me he had learned this key cutting method at a $200 seminar in Red Deer, so I felt gratified to know that I was supporting adult education.
At this point, I realized that the locksmith had no need of my vehicle serial number which I had written on a slip of paper, so I tucked it into the small, rarely used, inside vest pocket of my jacket. Which, of course, held my keys.
“Excuse me,” I said to the locksmith as he filed away in the light of his headlamps, “Does the key you are working on look anything like this one?”
I collected the family and was about to slip quietly home when the good-hearted Kennedys came up and asked for our address, in case they found our keys on their 40 km of trails. Less noble persons might have lost the keys a second time rather than admit to a small human error, but this was a glorious opportunity to demonstrate my keen sense of values to the family. So I confessed to my teeny, tiny error.
My family, surprisingly, wasn’t that surprised.
You can lead your family on a similar adventure. All it takes is some creativity, a flair for the absurd, and about $100. Of course, those on a more limited budget can scale down the cost by $60 simply by eliminating the key hiding routine, but I consider $60 cheap for a lifetime memory.
Red Deer Advocate, February 21, 1993