Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 6, 2012

"A nice little distraction from life"

The Welsh Powis Castle garden was beautiful with its giant yew topiaries, climbing roses, red hot pokers, lilies, rhododendrons and sculpted bushes.

But although I enjoyed the serenity of the scene, my favorite memory of our recent visit was watching our daughters Mariya and Katie, daughter-in-law Lacey, and German "kids" Nadja and Tim frolicking through the ivy-covered archways, posing under a rhododendron's limbs, bouncing around the field on giant bouncy balls and taking fast-action photos of each other jumping and running.

The day after, we traveled to the ruins of Harlech Castle on Tremadog Bay. It was built by English monarch Edward I in the late 13th century to keep the Welsh under control. While its history is fascinating, what again struck me most was watching the kids cavorting around its "rooms," running up and down the steps and zipping along the walls, all the while snapping pictures of each other.

The next day, we traveled to Chester, England, one of the best-preserved Roman-walled cities in Great Britain. While husband Art and I looked at the historic sights, the main order of business for the kids was shopping.

Throughout our travels, we also enjoyed the routine aspects of life such as eating meals together, watching TV, driving through the countryside and talking. It was great fun having them around. Their youthful exuberance not only made me laugh, it gave me a much-needed energy boost as well.

The trip also seemed to be well-timed. Just before we left for England, Art had been rushing around to complete a large order for one of his customers. Mariya, Katie and I had just finished the school year at K-State. Lacey had been working three jobs and would be moving on to a new one in Topeka when we returned.

Tim and Nadja have been so busy in recent months that they hardly have time to see each other.

Tim is in the process of completing his degree in aeronautical engineering and has been working extended hours to finish a thesis to fulfill his requirements.

Nadja is in school and is also working as a nurse in Berlin. Her life before the trip was pretty much like the one she described after in a recent e-mail.

"... Since we left Great Britain, I haven't had a day off. I'm either at school, at work or working on projects for school. When I want to do something with friends or my mom, I just sleep a couple of hours that day; otherwise I couldn't do that. I think the most tiring part of work is the different shifts I have to work. Every weekend and having no time for free-time stuff ..."

Reflecting on the trip, I think good vacations have three elements. One is experiencing new things. Another is enjoying the company of people you otherwise don't get to spend enough time with. And a third is escaping from your usual existence. Something Nadja wrote in the guest registry at Harlech Castle struck me as describing it well. In the comments section, she wrote, "a nice little distraction from life."

Indeed, our time together was just that!

Left: Jumping on the bouncy balls at Powis Castle, from left, Nadja, Mariya and Lacey; right: Kids on the walls of Harlech Castle, from left, Katie, Lacey, Mariya and Tim.

From left, Lacey, Katie, Mariya, Tim and Nadja pose under a rhododendron tree at the Powis Castle Gardens.

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