It was a long shot from the start.
How we ever imagined our considerable family of seven (including four kids in varying degrees of weekend moodiness; two parents living on too little sleep and too much caffeine; and one excitable miniature schnauzer named Luther) could ever pull off a sublime pastoral picnic outing is beyond me.
But we pressed onwards nonetheless, filling the hours that Saturday summer morning with quick dashes to quaint village shops for ingredients that would make up just the perfect combination of delicacies for our basket.
Four-year-old cheddar. Macedonian olives. Buttery croissants. Even a vast dark chocolate for dessert. But while we ultimately amassed an impressive array of sweets, salads and breads for our banquet, we were not, in the end, able to come up with a basket at all. So we jammed it all into a grocery bag and piled into the van.
Initially, we had planned a destination deep inside cottage country, where we imagined visions of Tom Thomson Jack Pines sheltering our rustic feast coming to life. But our five-year-old, Malindi, threw a fit that lasted the entire journey up to the 401 because she had forgotten her favourite toy, and our three-year-old, Finn, had an accident that dampened all of our spirits just as her cries were subsiding. So we decided to stop at a little park just inside Mississauga's city limits to change our son, eat our food and high tail it back to the city.
Unfortunately, even that half-hearted plan had to be shelved when the skies turned suddenly grey mere moments after our cranky mass of humanity had tumbled out of the family vehicle. We eyed the clouds with disbelief, just daring them to spill. Surely they would hold out just long enough to see a family's already compromised midday adventure through. No luck.
"Everybody back in the car!" Adam shouted, and the kids hesitated, groaned and then, just as the rain started to pelt the earth around us, scurried back into their seats and yanked shut the doors.
We sat there for a bit, the displaced lot of us, in silence. The rain streaked the windowpanes in long stripes that guided the eye down, as if to say, "So go the dreams of a family picnic." And then Finn piped up that he was hungry, and the other kids chimed in that they were, too. So we unpacked the vittles, and everybody tore into them like starving schnauzers.
In the end, we forgot about the weather entirely. We ate like kings (including Luther, who broke into the chocolate before anyone noticed) and giggled like fools. And despite the fact that the family van was littered with delicate croissant crumbs and smelled like Macedonian olive oil for months to come, I would venture to say that this was our best picnic yet.
Indeed, I would advise families henceforth to take their picnics where they can find them, to keep an open mind to obstacles in their path, and to stay alert to forks in their road. Just keep the chocolate out of the dog's reach.
Inspired to hit the road yourself? Try our Perfect Picnic menu.