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Making memories

by Roxanne Henke
Roxanne Henke, author of Inspired Living article for North Dakota Living magazine

“What’s the plan?” Those three words are my mantra. Ask anyone who knows me. They won’t use the word “spontaneous” in any sentence referring to me.

My mom once told me she was at a meeting and the speaker said, “If you have to make lists to remember things, that could be a sign you have Alzheimer’s.” My mom whispered to her friend, “Then Roxy’s had Alzheimer’s since she’s been 5 years old.” Yup, as soon as I learned to write, I started making lists. I still do. Almost every night, I make a list of what I plan to get done the next day. My planning has served me well, for the most part.

But, I’m learning (very slowly) that ditching my plan and going with the flow can bring unexpected surprises. Like one day last summer…

My 6-year-old granddaughter, Simone, was at the lake with us (and the rest of our family: her mom, Rachael, 4-year-old brother, Axel, our youngest daughter, Tegan, and my husband.) The night before, Tegan hosted a slumber party just for Simone. The main event of the party was staying up late and baking Simone’s “pretend” birthday cake. (Her birthday is a few weeks after their usual lake visit, so it’s become tradition to have a “pretend party” for her.)

Day dawned and I came downstairs to find the cake on the kitchen counter. Over-decorated. Sprinkles galore. Yes, the pretend party was on my list, right after dinner later in the evening. Like always, I got my coffee ready and went for my usual, early morning swim, with the sun just beginning to warm the July air. The glass-like water should have been a clue as to what the day was going to hold, but I was clueless.

There wasn’t a breeze in the air, which meant today was the day to take our annual boat trip (almost one hour full-throttle) to Horseshoe Bay for lunch. Boating to lunch wasn’t in my plan, but I agreed. Off we went. We ordered food. The kids played old-fashioned pinball machines, which fascinated them.

Halfway back from Horseshoe Bay, our daughters decided to try water-skiing, which neither of them had done in years. Rachael first. Up and off she went. Tegan next. The kids watched, wide-eyed, from the back of the boat. Tegan ditched in the middle of the lake, so we circled back to get her. As we were idling, Rachael dove right off the side of the boat. That was the moment I realized I was going to have to scrap any plan I had for the rest of the day and go with the flow. I took a deep breath. I could do this.

“Come in,” she called to the kids, who were now wide-eyed with jaws dropped. Really? The kids looked at me. I nodded, making sure their life jackets were secure. My husband dropped them over the side accompanied by astonished squeals. The four of them bobbed, big grins on their faces.

When we, eventually, got back to the cabin, Grandpa announced it was time to go tubing! I climbed on first, with Simone. We were going fast when we swung by a pair of paddle boarders. As we flew by, Simone yelled over her shoulder, “Have a nice daaaaay!”

Next on the tube were Rachael and Tegan, with Simone in the middle. Once again, Grandpa “floored it.” They were skimming the water, bouncing high over waves, when Rachael yelled, “Dad! Simone is little!” Tegan chimed in, “She’s 6. Almost 7.” Simone screamed, “But, mostly YOUNG!” He slowed down.

Exhausted, we came back to shore. And that’s when I announced (totally out of character), “It’s pretend birthday time! Let’s eat cake on the end of the dock!” Before supper. No plates. Just forks and cake. And, lots of giggles.

Our neighbors (with their kids and grandkids) had just wandered out to the end of their dock. “Come over,” they called. So we went. All 10 or more of us sat around the end of their small dock, visiting. The kids were doing cannonballs off the end of the dock, having a blast trying to splash the adults! Then, with no warning, one of the young moms and a grandma jumped off the end of the dock with their clothes on! Every single one of us joined them.

Then it was bonfire time. I pulled out a couple solar lanterns and the four littlest kids went on “adventures” in the dark.

As I was climbing the steps to our cabin with Simone, with only a sliver of moon to light the way, she breathed the deepest sigh and said, “This was the best day of my life.”

I smiled. It had turned out to be one of the best days of my life, too. An entire day of unexpected, unplanned, surprises. A little glimpse of what I hope heaven is like.

I often get caught up in “routine.” Like eating cake after dinner. But on that perfect day, God nudged me out of my comfort zone into his plan and, oh my, what a day. What an absolutely perfect day.

I learned an important lesson: “The greatest legacy we can have or leave is happy memories.” I’m working on doing just that.

Roxanne (Roxy) Henke loves making memories with her family. She lives in rural North Dakota with her husband and their dog, DeeDee. Roxy is the author of eight novels. You can contact her at: roxannehenke@yahoo.com.