Some of you know that I don't live in Galesburg any more. I write from the safety of distance. It helps to gain a perspective of events, uncluttered by the details of facts and reality. I'm a little like Garrison Keillor, only without the writing ability, the wit, and the sense of humor. On the other hand, he has the advantage that Lake Wobegon residents are unlikely to be offended by his narratives of recent events.
I recall a story by Garrison of going back home to Lake Wobegon for Christmas. The parents had moved away to be successful in a bigger city and were coming home to their parents to celebrate Christmas. They were bringing their own children to visit their grandparents. The nearer they came to reaching Lake Wobegon, the greater the apprehension grew. It is a common theme for many of us.
And so it was in October. My mother was to celebrate her 90th Birthday. The three sons threw a birthday party gathering of friends and family at the Kensington in Galesburg. There were four generations represented. Relatives from New Hampshire, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois helped celebrate her birthday. All in all, it went well. Great grandchildren were able to visit the "Q's" humps and watch the grandest scale of trains move by and under them. My hat goes off to the highway bridge designer who had the foresight to construct the bridge wide enough to accommodate safe pull off on the shoulder so train enthusiasts of all ages could stop and watch the trains.
Our children and grandchildren were able to visit Lake Bracken. For our children, it was an opportunity to refresh their childhood memories of visiting their grandparents. For our grandchildren, it was a new memory that may or may not "stick" with time.
As I recall with our own children, "going home" to Galesburg was a stressful time. You wanted the kids to behave well - to reflect well on your parenting skills. As we drove through the snow, the tensions in the car would grow, both in the front seat and the back. Just as you were getting close to home, the kids would seem to reach the critical mass of crankiness and begin to pick at one another. Hopes for a perfect Christmas were being dashed in the back seat, as we approached the exit from I-74. Squabbles between sisters escalated. I'd intervene, providing the catalyst to provoke both to tears, and a glare from their mother.
But most of the parent fears were unjustified. Grandchildren attach to grandparents and form a bond that can be best described as "an enemy of my enemy is my friend".
Nevertheless, with little ones, you never know what quite to expect when they are confronted with an adoring audience. We as parents had learned that. Now our own children are being taught by their children. All little ones seem to be natural born actors, only waiting for the right moment to perform. And so it was at the Kensington. Our younger daughter brought her children's Halloween costumes for the three little ones to change into so Great Grandma could see them. The middle one, Avery, made the great escape from the Kensington bathroom during changing into costume. She accomplished a 4-year version of "streaking" through the family gathering before she could be gathered up for the adding of a costume. Lady Godiva, without the horse, was not in the original family script. The oldest of the three Michigan great grandchildren is in kindergarten. He appeared as a Star Wars hero, complete with a light saber. He demonstrated his youthful vigor in the use of the device, causing no harm, but some minor alarm.
Friends and relatives came and visited, renewing old acquaintances and family ties. Four generations were present, spanning 90 years. Old photos of ancestors extended the presence for another three generations, back to approximately 1857.
As always, the Kensington staff did an excellent job in setting up for the gathering and in providing food and drink without being noticed or interrupting the gathering. Such abilities are rare and their unnoticed support deserves to be noticed. They even overlooked the occasional invasion of other parts of the Kensington by wee ones who can totter off at nearly the speed of light when so motivated.
We came home from as far as New Hampshire, and from as near as Galesburg, to meet and share common bonds. No children were lost. No damage was done. And has been the case for generations, the little ones provided enjoyable entertainment for all, but perhaps their parents. Such as it was. Such as it has been. And hopefully, such as it will be in the future.