Sunday was my first ever Mother’s Day in America. Mothering Sunday in the UK falls in March so the weather is often too cold and miserable to plan any sort of excursion. We knew, however, that Sunday was predicted to be a corker of a day so Mr Pict asked me where I would like to go as a day trip. Normally I would always plan a trip around the kids’ interests and needs and, indeed, my first thought was to take them into Philadelphia to explore a museum or gallery. But then I decided to be selfish and decreed that we would take a trip to the picturesque town of New Hope.
New Hope sits on the Delaware River where it meets the Aquetong Creek, right on the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and just north of where George Washington famously crossed. Before moving to Pennsylvania, I must admit the only thing I knew about New Hope was that it was where Abbie Hoffman had commmitted suicide. Now I also know that Broadway shows are often first show in New Hope as a way of giving them a dry run and tweaking them and that the town’s main industry is tourism. This latter fact was evident upon our arrival. The place was packed. Thankfully we set of reasonably early in the day and had an easy, scenic and straightforward journey into the town and found a place to park with ease. As we were departing in late afternoon, there was a tailback stretching for miles in the incoming direction so it is definitely advantageous to be an early bird. That said, while the town was absolutely heaving with people, it was happy and relaxed hustle and bustle that generated a positive buzz.
I managed to convince the kids to have their photo taken with me to commemorate our Mother’s Day trip. You can see they look thrilled. Their facial expressions and poses are almost identical to last year’s Mother’s Day group photo except we are not standing in front of a ruined medieval castle and we are wearing significantly fewer layers.
The boys soon found a sculpture of a lounge chair which they loved.
Mr Pict took the youngest two to the Children’s Museum – which they enjoyed but which he reported was definitely pitched at the lower end of the age spectrum – while the older two came to poke around in arts, crafts and antiques shops with me. My 8 year old loves shopping and likes all things glittery and shiny which means he is quite happy to browse in shops selling creative things and unusual items. My 11 year old was in a tweenage sulk so spent most of the shopping element of the trip sitting on the steps outside each stop while his brother and I were inside. Because, when you are a teenager, you would rather develop haemorrhoids from sitting on bricks than mollify your parent by being co-operative. It was sunny and hot and there were plenty of people milling around so I left him to it.
My 8 year old and I decided to set ourselves a few missions to give our perusing a bit more focus. We wanted to find some octopus items because we have a family tradition of locating and photographing octopus themed items and then tagging them as my youngest brother (there really is no point in explaining why), we wanted to find a penguin to cheer the 11 year old up and I wanted to find something to do with cardinals since I have been enjoying seeing them in the garden. It was not that we planned on buying these items, of course. It was a scavenger hunt rather than a shopping list.
It turned out that ornamental octopi were breeding like crazy in New Hope. We spotted our first one within milliseconds of being in the first shop we visited and then we kept on finding more and more of them. They must be a popular creature. We hit the jackpot, however, in one particular store where an entire shelf was dedicated to glass octopi.
We also had success with the penguin mission as we found some glass penguins in an art shop and we completed our hunt with a pair of cardinal salt and pepper shakers in an antique shop. We did not buy any of the scavenger hunt items but I did, however, find a few items of affordable jewellery on sale so treated myself to those and my 8 year old bought a small leather panda. I also bought two little metal sparrows just because I liked them and they cost tuppence ha’penny. We also managed to find some fun teacher presents which was a great result.
As much as I love to rummage among interesting items and look at what creative people have produced in various media, it is still shopping and I am not someone who can shop until I drop. I have a lower than average threshold for shopping probably because my Gran was an absolute shopaholic who frequently pushed my tolerance levels too far on shopping expeditions. Indeed, my sister and I used to talk about our Gran having a “purse attack” which was a sure sign we were going to be dragged from one end of a city centre to another with our feet pulsing at an increasing tempo. Despite this shopping experience being far more absorbing than visiting a mall, therefore, after traipsing around shops for a while, the two oldest and I headed to the bridge to meet up with Mr Pict and the two youngest boys. We parked our derrières on the wall and people-watched in the sunshine while we waited for the other half of the family to arrive.
Once we had all gathered back together we decided to cross the bridge across the Delaware and thus walk into another state. We thought this would be a novel experience for the kids plus there was the lure of ice cream on the other side to motivate them.
The crossing brought us into Lambertville, New Jersey’s equivalent to New Hope since it was filled with the same type of shops and eateries and the architectural styles matched too. Both towns really are wonderfully picturesque.
It was time for refreshments. I am lactose intolerant and really cannot cope with ice cream so I used that time to nose around in a few more art shops. I find that shops selling works of art tend to fall into one of two categories: they are either relaxed places where you can wander around studying paintings and sculptures without anyone even giving you a second glance or else they are the type of place where the person on the sales desk watches you like a hawk and appears to be monitoring and judging what you do or do not find diverting. I experienced both types of shopping experience in Lambertville. I returned to the rendezvous spot to find that Mr Pict and the kids had devoured their ice creams . Ice cream beards were earned. The littlest Pict refused to “shave” his. We pick our battles as parents so we just let him.
It was soon time to cross back over into Pennsylvania again and indeed time to leave New Hope. As I had curtailed our shopping wanderings, there were streets I had not even wandered along. However, it is somewhere I know my parents will like to explore and meander around so we will definitely come back over the summer when they are visiting.
New Hope was filling up with people in gladrags ready to dine and celebrate Mother’s Day with their nearest and dearest. There were queues forming outside every single eatery – including the Dairy Queen, would you believe – and the prices and logistics of the dining spaces did not really work for the dynamic of our family anyway. We, therefore, drove for a short while and went to a Chilli’s (a favourite of the boys which means no whining from anyone – a Mother’s Day treat for me) where we all overate and I had a large blueberry margarita while the sun was still up. Because it was Mother’s Day.
As for my Mother’s Day gifts, the kids did a wonderful job this year as they do every year. I received handmade, personalised cards from each of them – including one depicting a zombie bloodbath – and my 7 year old painted me a picture of a bouquet of flowers. The littlest Pict had made an oven glove at preschool which had his name and handprints on it and the kids also gifted me a book of drawings entitled ‘Unicorn Executions’ which seemed to perfectly encapsulate their relationship to my creativity. I also got to order my gelli plate so that I can have fun learning how to monoprint again after all these years.
It really was a lovely day.