A friend of mine, who I met through the gym years ago, invited my kids to her acreage a while back to pick some apples and plums from her trees and to visit her alpacas.
What an adventure! I thought to myself. A cool field trip as summer winds down a bit.
I waited a half-day to ask my children if that’s something they’d be into because they were as cranky as I was last week and no doubt if I’d asked them right away, they would have declined.
I’m so glad I waited. They would have missed out.
“Alpacas?” one asked.
“Are those the ones that look like camels?” asked another.
“No. No. They look like Llamas.”
“Do they spit?”
“Are they hairy?”
“Do they bite?”
“Can we pet them?”
“Can we feed them?”
You’ll have to ask my friend, I kept replying. If you must know, I’m not really up to date on my alpaca facts.
I got directions to the property the morning we were to visit, along with a warning that the dog might be out when we arrived.
“We have a large white dog. She is friendly just barks a lot so you can either wait for me or get out of the car. She’s not aggressive but a lot of people aren’t good with strange dogs.”
The kids were instantly excited when we drove up a bit of a hill to see an old barn straight ahead. After coming to a stop in the driveway area, out of the corner of my eye I saw a polar bear come out from around the back of the house.
“Look! They’ve got polar bears here too!” I said.
Previously excited, the kids quickly became somewhat concerned. They were of two minds about this development because clearly they believed me that it was a polar bear. Both equally wanted to see the bear but were terrified of seeing the bear.
After realizing it was just the dog, they hopped out of the car a little less frightened but still intimidated. The pooch looked exactly like Belle from the Belle And Sebastian television cartoon series, a detail not lost on my children. She’s a strapping Great Pyrenees mix who stood nearly as tall as my five-year-old. She was sweet as pie though.
It wasn’t that massive canine that intrigued them most however, it was the tiny little handful of a dog they saw next. The dog we weren’t warned about: the one smaller than our cat.
Catching up with my friend while the kids followed the tiny pup around was a bit surreal. I’m not sure if it was the layout of the property, the relative familiarity the kids had with my gym friend, or the fact that they’re so keen on nature and stuff but my kids were immediately comfortable. So much so my husband and I exchanged glances wondering what the heck was happening. Who were these children!?
The rest of the visit was pretty magical. The kids met and fed grape leaves to the alpacas, forgot all the questions they had for my friend, and thought their dad was pretty brave for standing in the bucket of the tractor to reach the apples and plums high up in the trees for them.
The alpacas: Genie, Rubbekia, Mercedes and Funny Ears (technically named Sweet Geneva but hey, sometimes nicknames stick) were rightly more afraid of the kids than the kids were of them but they benefited nevertheless from the dropped fruit the kids kept trying to feed them by hand, so I think the children would be welcomed back to pick fruit again if it were up to the animals.
After we were overloaded with apples and plums the kids took off running to the back of the house.
“I think they think they live here now,” I apologized to my friend, both impressed and mortified that my kids felt comfortable enough to run free.
She didn’t mind their spunk, though, and we followed them around back and checked out the grapes while the kids explored. We found a mouse skeleton and spent a great deal of time examining that, which was a bit much for me but that’s parenthood for you. The kids made their way back to the alpacas to have another visit before we headed home.
It was a heck of a visit. A wholesome activity that we ordinarily wouldn’t ever get to do and I’m grateful to my friend for the invite.
What struck me most about it was the comfort my children had at the property and how well they behaved in a place they’d never been. I remember going to unfamiliar places with my sister and instantly turning from mortal enemies into best pals, because, really, who else do you have in those situations?
Apparently my children work that way, too. This was never more evident than when my kids were trying to help pick fruit from the trees that were much taller than they were. They fight like… well they fight like siblings but they also love each other so fiercely that they both sincerely believed they were going to reach a plum quite clearly too high up in a tree if they did it together. I hope they never stop reaching for great heights together, no matter how out of reach they might appear to everyone else.