Whee!


“Can you save money by switching to Geico? Did the little piggy cry ‘wee, wee, wee,’ all the way home?”

The commercial then moves to an hilarious scene. An adorable little pig leans out the window of a minivan, waving sparklers and crying, “Whee!! Whee, whee, wheeeeeeee!” In the adjoining seat, sits an embarrassed, annoyed boy of about twelve; his perturbed mother is driving.

“Max?  Max! You’re home.”

“Oh. Thanks, Mrs. A.”

On Columbus Day, my husband and I had one of those “whee!” days – a real holiday.  No work, no papers to grade, no lecture to prepare, no repertoire to rehearse. Determined to avoid the mall, we drove toward Indiana.

Our first stop was Momence, IL, a small town about 15 miles east of our village. Momence is a small picturesque town where wide, tree-lined streets are graced by old houses. The maple trees and front porches appealed to our Southern sensibilities; for perhaps the first time since my husband and I moved to Illinois, a locale actually felt familiar, like home. We discovered the Island Park on the Kankakee River and pulled over. It was a gorgeous Indian summer day, unseasonably warm, with red and gold leaves bright against the azure sky.

On the bridge over the channel, we met a lovely lady and her granddaughter. They were feeding the ducks and geese and kindly shared their bread with us so we could join in the fun. The lady had lived in Momence all her life, and as we tossed bread to the greedy birds, she gave us an impromptu history lesson. Momence dates back to the mid-1800’s. The town was to have been named for Moness, the local Potawatomi chief. Our teacher bemoaned the spelling error that turned “Moness” into “Momence,” saying she was glad the town had gotten the name right on the new elementary school. She also explained that the channel under the bridge had been dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers; the water was formerly used to power the local mills.

We finished feeding the ducks, thanked our new friends for the bread, and crossed to the bridge to explore the rest of the park. We kicked up a few buckeyes, walked under the train trestle, and played on the swings. Swings were always my favorite when I was a little girl. Not one for climbing trees, swings were the way to get close to the sky, a way to fly. And so I soared, and my husband spun. He’s always a little unconventional, that one. And the warm air smelled of chocolate; somewhere nearby, someone was baking fudge.

When we had had our fill of swinging, we headed back to the bridge, anticipating trouble. A group of geese had swum across the channel and one by one, begun walking ashore. We wondered if they would let us cross; luckily, they did. One sentinel stood guard while the others milled around for food. We were hungry too and headed off to find lunch. We discovered terrific gyros at Athens Grill, a tiny, family-owned Greek restaurant in Lowell, Indiana.

Having forgotten the GPS, my husband joked that we had taken so many unknown turns we might need to buy a map to find our way back home. We made it without having to stop to ask directions. And I thought about the little piggy. Some days we just need to choose joy! I am far too reserved to roll down my car window and yell, “Whee,” but I thought it. All the way home.

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