From the 14th floor of the hotel in downtown St. Paul, my family and I watch an obscure documentary on Russia after the Soviet Union collapse while early fireworks blossom in the distance over the Mississippi river and curved lines of golden street lights tell the stories of comings and goings.
Tomorrow we pry ourselves out of bed early and begin the long drive home, and in the days to come, I’ll share many waterfalls and other twists of the oxymoronic family vacation notion and reality. But for now, I land on the convergences of today. We had lunch with Frances, Kevin and their wonderful family, downing pizza and cookies on the deck and catching up a little bit more on the 40-plus years between when Kevin and I grew up together in Brooklyn, and later within a block in a New Jersey suburb because our moms have been close friends since girlhood (his mom even introduced my mom to my dad so my very existence is related to this family).
Later, the men in my family called me in a panic — Natalie and I were shopping in Ikea and they were at Mall of America — to say they were beginning to have claustrophobic hyber-ventilation bouts in the blaring noise of a massive mall that held a very loud indoor amusement park. We met in the Ikea parking lot, Natalie and I hauling some throw pillows while Daniel told me, “It was just terrible, Mom,” making us drop plans for further shopping. Instead, Daniel, Ken and I went to Minnehaha Park to see the falls, walk the trail, and wade among the rocks and people of many ages and backgrounds.
Then it was dinner at a Japanese restaurant where Forest bravely tried something that turned out to be raw beef in garlic sauce, followed by a follow-up dinner for Forest at Mickey’s Dinner, where the floor may be greasy but the food is delish and the history is 72 years full of pancakes, hash browns and burgers.
Now Russian fills the room as we watch a Russian punk rocker drive cola on TV while being interviewed, and we finish the last of the packing. The vacation will soon morph to post-vacation life at 70 mph over the seven-plus hours it will take to drive back to Kansas.