The boys have been on spring break, so I took the day off yesterday and the four of us went to our third hometown Chattanooga.
We joined the Tennessee Aquarium this time, which softened the experience of sharing the place with six or seven school groups. We’re excited about going back a couple more times this year. When you can be standing in the place slightly less than two hours after you pull out of the driveway, why not?
After lunch at the Mellow Mushroom, the “new” thing we did was Ruby Falls. It was everyone’s first time but mine, and my first since the Carter administration or so. I remember writing of Rock City that it wasn’t as touristy as it might have been. Well, the Ruby Falls experience is touristy up to 11, then wrench it around another quarter-turn and yank the knob off.
The waterfall itself is lovely. However, the half-mile guided walk to it under Lookout Mountain is highly scripted, and along a much-too-finished path. (I’m confident there are no right angles in genuine speleology.) Even when you get to the waterfall, you can’t just admire it. It’s awash in colored lights and overdramatic music, and after five minutes or so it goes dark and you leave.
Now I’m not saying this doesn’t all have its place. We enjoyed it. On the way out, Nathan and I entertained ourselves tremendously expressing concern about all of the bats (within earshot of groups who were headed in). Then, Aaron made a clever-beyond-his-years joke about not disturbing the bat eggs, and we had more cackles about it being nesting season. Those are the kinds of things that morph into rest-of-your-life private jokes, and I know that because my mother and I had hundreds of them.
But as we made our way to the elevator, I told the boys “all right, so now you’ve done that, so you don’t need to do it again until you have children.” They agreed. They knew we’d spent some good time together, but that they weren’t leaving a transcendental experience.
(Did I mention that it was $61 for the four of us?)
We stopped at the unclaimed baggage place in Scottsboro on the way home. I’ve lived in northern Alabama for 26 years and I’d never been before. It was both larger and nicer than I expected. I actually bought a cell phone.
Drove home through the only significant rain of the day. It was only 20 minutes or so, but made up in intensity what it lacked in duration. We were all back and in our jammies a little after 6, tired but happy.
I have one more note on the day. While I don’t let it dominate my thinking, I am acutely aware that it was right now—in terms of marriage length and children’s ages, if not quite mine and Lea’s ages (we’re older)—that my parents divorced. When we all pile out of the car smiling after having been together for 12 straight hours, I consider how blessed Lea and I are to be navigating a bit of occasional chop, as opposed to class 5 rapids.