Okay, I may be exaggerating with the title. Really, I'm not, but sometimes I have to remind myself of that. Family is more important, and I am frequently reminded how happy it makes me to spend time with those I love.
This afternoon, Dee and I picked up our granddaughter, Alex, from her home and took her out for some fun and food. She's four-and-a-half and more fun to be with than most adults I know. (Sorry, friends.) Her vocabulary is amazing, both because she's extremely intelligent and her parents don't talk down to her the way people who think you have to "simplify" things for children will do.
We started our excursion by going to the Lewis Gintner Botanical Gardens in Henrico (a suburb of Richmond, VA). The place is beautiful and fascinating. The grounds are well-kept and the people there are friendly and helpful, including the guests, and why not? When one is strolling through a veritable Garden of Eden, one tends to be relaxed and pleasant. Dee and I are members there, so we can go as often as we wish, as well as bring a few guests with us. Today, Alex was our guest.
We began by making our way to the Conservatory, where a special, secluded room with hundreds of colorful butterflies of various types float on the warm, moist air inside, gathering nectar from the myriad flowers adorning the walkway edges. By secluded, I mean visitors must first enter one room before being allowed to enter the "butterfly room" to prevent any of the delicate creatures from escaping. We even witnessed the lady in charge of entrances and exits catch one of the fragile insects and return him or her to the main room before letting us in.
The room is intended to educate visitors, and staff were on hand to answer any questions someone might have. Often one can find a butterfly attempting to hitch a ride to the great wide world outside the controlled atmosphere of the room by alighting on someone's shoulder or back. They are always discovered and returned to the room. The butterflies are, of course, seasonal, and I am glad we were able to stop in before the summer wanes into autumn.
Next, Alex, who had been there before with Dee, wanted to show me the "HUGE" tree house in the gardens. We trekked up a long, winding wooden ramp to find ourselves above the garden, where openings that served as windows afforded a wonderful view of the surrounding grounds. A young man was up there with a laptop, and my first thought was, "What a wonderful place to write!" There was also a lady with a book she was reading in the mostly silent room.
We left there and got some fish/turtle food from a dispenser (free) and fed two very large turtles in the lake nearby. One snapping turtle was casually sunning himself on a rock, and to be honest we didn't bother to feed him since getting fingers dangerously close to his mouth would be necessary. However, we did feed his neighbor, whom I called "Mossyhead" (because his head was covered with a plant-like growth). Alex was fascinated by this encounter, and she even stopped by again later in the hopes of finding the turtles still there, but they had moved on.
The final garden stop I will tell you about is an enormous, ancient tree that is available for kids (and some adults) to climb on. The tree itself is gnarled and its very long, thick, knobby branches, which are not far from the ground, are supported by constructed "crutches" built some distance from the massive trunk. It looks like a tree one might encounter while accompanying Bilbo Baggins through Mirkwood during a reading of The Hobbit.
We made our way back to the entrance and to our car, and I drove us to a lovely restaurant called HUTCH, on Gaskins Road. Alex had cheese and macaroni with bacon sprinkled throughout. Dee had a salad topped with glazed salmon, and I had the Mushroom-Swiss burger. I don't know how good the Dee's and Alex's food was--they said it was delicious--but my burger was amazing. I had hardly eaten all day to save up some calories to enjoy my meal, and I can honestly say the temporary starving was well worth it.
After that, it was time for dessert, and we stopped at a shop to have gelato. It was the ending of a perfect afternoon. We took Alex home, where her energy and antics entertained everyone until Dee and I had to leave.
Yes, family is a wonderful thing. Be sure to spend quality time with yours soon. Everyone will be better for it.