Not the first thing, though: brunch at Mary Mac's! Our travel budget relies on us eating our packed groceries for almost all meals, with very few exceptions. For instance: when you grew up on Southern cooking, but have lived half your life up north, but now you're back down south for just a week, where there's a famous restaurant that specializes in Southern cooking just a few miles away?
That's an exception.
My smartphone doesn't take cute pictures like your smartphone does, so you'll have to live with these. The photo on the left is my brunch, with macaroni and cheese, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, sweet potato casserole, potlikker and cracklin' bread already consumed, and sweet tea to drink. This was also my dinner. On the right, there, Matt is mowing down a pulled pork sandwich. He inhaled it, so he had to make himself another sandwich from our packed groceries for dinner, the poor dear.
Tummies nice and tight, we dropped our car back off at our hotel, then hoofed it across Centennial Olympic Park--
(Do you see what's missing? This is when we discovered that women's sabre wasn't an Olympic event until 2004 for individuals, and 2008 for team! What the hell, Olympics?!?)
--and to the CNN Center. Matt and I, along with our friends John and Sarah, went on a Spring Break trip together many years ago when we were but little lambs in college, and I distinctly remember that we could look through a giant picture window into CNN going about its business, so I wanted to show the children. Alas, however, for either my memory is flawed or the CNN Center has vastly altered its design since then (which would be understandable, since that WAS twenty years ago...), because now all you can do is stand in the food court and crane your head up at CNN going about its business several floors above you. And we didn't even get to see Carl Azuz walking by so we could fangirl over him! Huge bummer.
Note to Carl Azuz: Walk through the food court sometimes!
Fortunately, the disappointments of no women's sabre and no Carl Azuz were well forgotten with our next, highly anticipated destination. Will first discovered this place last summer, during our sharks study. She was in the family room on the computer, and from my bedroom I heard her shout, "Mom! WHALE SHARKS!" She had found the website of the Georgia Aquarium, and was raptly reading all about their whale sharks. You could see whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium!
I looked over her shoulder at the site, then said to her, before walking away, "Atlanta? We could go to Atlanta sometime."
That sometime was this time, and there we were at the Georgia Aquarium-
|Syd's special animal is the beluga, because I spent hours at a time singing "Baby Beluga" softly to her in the NICU, so that she would know that I was there when she was too fragile to handle human touch.|
--where dreams really do come true:
We spent much of the day with the whale sharks, it seems:
|This one is filter feeding.|
|Here's a black-tipped reef shark. We know those from Hawaii!|
Do you think the kids liked it okay?
Syd was even chosen to "help" one of the dolphin trainers during the dolphin show--
--and the whale sharks were STILL her favorite thing at the aquarium!
Magical moments like these are one of the main reasons why I love to travel so much. Yes, I can find magical moments at home (although that's harder sometimes--you know it is!), and yes, there are a bunch of other things that I really love about travel, but that experience of seeing or doing something that we've only dreamed of, or never even dreamed of? Of seeing my first glacier, live and up-close? Of spending the night in the house of one of Mac's friends, and waking up in the morning to find a squirrel had sneaked in the open window of my room and was sitting on the dresser? Of a small Syd, spotting Cookie Monster and breaking away to bolt over and give him a great, big hug? Of being proposed to in Iceland? Of exposing my first dinosaur fossil?
Those are the stories that I tell the kids over and over--the places I've been, the things I've done, the sights I've seen. The magic. And I love it every time they tell me a story of their own, usually from some adventure that they've gone on and I haven't. They've already got their own magic to tell me about: the Day of Pranks that they pulled at camp, how nobody would sleep at the sleepover, white water rafting with their grandparents, the Robin Hood game at their nature program in which children shot actual (padded) arrows at other children.
And of the stories that we tell, there are now several more: the time that we ate in a restaurant that was also an aquarium. The time that we walked around the Parthenon, and it was in Nashville. The time that we saw a wild dolphin at the beach (more on that to come!).
The time that we saw whale sharks, and it was magical.