Previous month:
August 2009
Next month:
October 2009

Time to go home

This morning Clay and I sat with Larry and Connie in their kitchen while the boys straggled in one by one. They each went over to shoulder their way into a good morning hug from their grandparents, and padded around, choosing their last-morning-of-vacation breakfasts.

Sophia sat on the counter in front of Larry, and while he finished his coffee, they chatted.

"Oh, no," he said, "you don't want that salt. Here, you play with this." And he scooted a plastic container of mixed nuts into the corral of her fat legs. She patted its blue lid with both hands and gazed at him seriously.

"AhhAAAAH!" she screeched.

"Now don't you worry, okay. You and me, we're going to have lots of years to get to know one another," he said, and his finger tapped her knee.

The sky was split between cloud and sun, and someone noticed a rainbow arching over the river. We gathered at the windows to look at it. It was actually a double rainbow, a brilliant wash of color echoed by a pastel mirror image just above it. It shone against the deep gray of the clouds. It grew and stretched from the middle of the river, over the house, and into the horizon beyond the neighbor's house.

And then it was time for us to pack, and Connie and Larry to leave for their appointment. We all hugged, and they were off for Larry's next chemotherapy treatment.

It was hard to leave today, to pack up and go away from these people we all love so much and this place that has become so precious. I keep picturing them all surrounded by that rainbow, as though they are all wrapped safe in promises of hope...and years to come.

It was hard to go, but it was a good way to leave.

Weaving a walk

This morning Raphael was bouncing around the house, searching for an adult to accompany him down to the river. It was too cold by far for swimming, but he wanted to test the water with his toes, and the rule is that if you're touching water, you have to have an adult with you.

It was cold and windy and spitting rain, and I'm not much for going down to the river at the best of times, so he was surprised when I offered to take him. I wrapped one hand around a warm mug of coffee, and rested the other on his warm, bristly head.

Once we got down to the water, he splashed in it, agreed it was cold, and together we started walking. I suppose since it's a river, we were walking along a bank, but it's all sand, washed smooth by the tide, littered with shells, and so it looks like a beach to me. I strolled, shaking the hair out of my eyes as the wind whipped it around. Raphael danced to the water and back, his footprints crossing mine, creating the warp to my weft, weaving together a whole walk up the beach.

"Dad said he'd take me to Coffee Pot Island today in the kayak," he called back to me.

"If the weather cooperates," I warned.

"If the weather," he agreed, squinting out across the wind-ruffled water. He picked up a stone, rubbed the sand off it, turned it over in his hand. He tossed it up in the air, showed me how he could snatch it right out of the middle of its flight, then turned and skimmed it across the water. He grinned at his own skill, then noticed that I was passing him in my steady pace. He trotted up to me and wrapped cold wet fingers around mine.

"Is this an adventure?" I asked. He thought about it.

"It is. Because we don't know where we're going and plus I just found a snail shell."

"Then it's certainly an adventure."

"This is about as good as a snuggle," he said. I squeezed his hand and smiled down in agreement, and he twisted free and ran ahead.

The sun broke through the clouds and threw his shadow back at me. It bounced just beyond my reach on the sand.

When I was little, my mom told me that a nurse gave her a prediction the day I was born.

"She said, 'she'll always walk two steps ahead of you down the street.' And you always have," Mom said. 

At the time, I felt sorry for her, my mother back there in my wake.

I thought about her today, and realized what a treasure it can be, watching your everything bouncing ahead of you.

So where did I go? Well, most of it is uninteresting - for instance, first I got sick. Just a cold, the same stupid cold that has been relentlessly crawling through the family for the last month. I was the last to fall under its wheels. Here's a completely new and interesting observation: when you are the mom AND the sick person, there is no mom to take care of you. Also, the laundry doesn't stop. 

And after the sickness, it was suddenly time to pack and go on a trip we'd been planning for weeks and weeks. Right up until a day or two before it was time to leave, I was all calm and casual about it, oh no problem, we'll get it done, I'm borrowing a few suitcases from my parents. 
And then? 24 hours before? That's when the reality of it smacked me between the eyes, and I started spinning around the house frantically, clutching to my chest every item I could imagine we might need in the next two weeks.

We are a family of seven. We cannot pack every item we could possible need. 

Besides, we were gathering up to go to Clay's parent's house, not into the wilds of...someplace wild. We would be okay. 

And now here we are, all of us. Even Jennie took two weeks off of the beginning of her senior year to come out here to Washington state, where the greens are greener and the sun is fickle. Clay's parents live on an island in the Columbia river, and his brother Doug and his wife Jill live next door. It's like one big family compound, except not in the strange hair and polygamy way.

Every morning the boys tumble out the back door and down to the river, like so many sandy puppies. Connie (Clay's mom) holds and loves on Sophia, and Jennie drifts in from next door by late morning, lovely and sleepy. Larry, Clay's dad, had chemo last week, so he rests when he needs to, and Clay bounds back and forth between us all. Another of Clay's brothers, Dan, is staying with Connie and Larry right now, and I'm afraid that he and Raphael are kindred spirits. It's a little scary.

I watch them all, and marvel. I love Clay's family. I mean, I REALLY love Clay's family. It's not just because they are the bright and shiny GOOD to balance out a world that contains my former in-laws. No, that would be enough, if that was all. But they're also kind and funny and...just happy.

They are the happy family. You knew there had to be one, right? It's this one. They like each other and they treat each other well. 
Somehow I lucked out and married into the happy family.

I so, so want my family to grow up to be like this one. I want my kids to want to come back and see me. I want us all to care about what is happening in each other's lives, but not feel the need to manipulate it all. I want my grown children to light up when they cross my threshold, because they are stepping back into a familiar love. I want to hold my grandbabies someday and marinate in their drool-spangled smiles.

Today my parents, back in Colorado, sold their house. It was the house they bought to shelter the boys and me when our lives were turned upside down. The six of us lived there for almost four years, and when the boys and I left to make our life with Clay, it was too big for the two of them. 

And so, finally, they are done with it. Someone else calls it home, the house we called The Promised Land.

I'm glad for my parents, that they were able to finally get out from under the burden of that house in this market. I'm glad they have their own, sun-filled house that fits them.

And yet I find myself remembering those rooms that sheltered us with a pang. It was not perfect, but it was good.

With apologies to Tolstoy, I have to believe that although happiness is a moving target, it is one that can be hit. On the banks of the Colombia or in the shadow of the Rockies, there is happiness to be had.

I know. I've seen it.


Last night I pulled out ye olde ACTIVE LIFE: EXTREME CHALLENGE (please say it in all caps. It's just BETTER that way), and proceeded to try to kill myself with double dutch. But WHY? you say? Didn't you just last week say that you didn't LIKE double dutch?

WHY YES, thank you for listening!

But see, SOMEONE called me out. SOMEONE challenged me to a double-dutch off of sorts. And I was all OH YEAH and BRING IT and then I remembered that SOMEONE is a bad-ass who does capoeira, which I always want to call capybera, which is not what it is. To clarify, capoeira is a scary cool martial arts/dance combo, whereas a capyberais a rodent of unusual size.

So when I remembered that she is a tiny powerhouse of bad-assedness, then I got scared and told Clay that he needed to go buy me a gun because a mean girl was trying to hurt me. He said buying a gun would ENSURE that I would get hurt, and so I threw things. I just made that part up. Sorry.

But I DID hit the double-dutch as hard as I could and may I just say? Owie. This may be why *I* am not a tiny little powerhouse of anything, because in very short order I was lying on the couch, fighting for air, whining (with what little breath I could muster) that my legs hurt.

However, I did get THREE HUNDRED AND TEN in free-play double-dutch, Carmen. DID YOU TOP IT?


And as I played, again the family gathered around me, with the yelling and the support. I stiff-armed them away from MY GAME as long as I could, and then I remembered that I'm actually a loving mother and not the snotty girl on the playground from middle school, and everyone got to take turns. Including Clay.

It was completely awesome. My mom stopped by in the middle of our tournament, and she said that you could hear us all from the street, and it sounded like a party. There was a lot of yelling and jumping up and down. May I modestly point out here that Clay was UNABLE to top my double-dutch score? Or would that be snarky and ungracious?

Absolute best trash-talk of the evening? When Max established THE SCORE TO BEAT on kite surfing, he turned to me and said, "It's easy to tell I'm your son, know why?"

"BECAUSE YOU'RE AWESOME?" I replied, and we high-fived while everyone else rolled their eyes.


So there you go, our experience with ACTIVE LIFE: EXTREME CHALLENGE (all caps. SAY IT). It's not the sort of thing that would replace an exercise program. Some of the activities barely raise the heart rate, while others kind of made my heart explode. However, I do think it would be an excellent addition to an active lifestyle. We are enjoying it so much that the plan is to have a family Active Life night every Sunday. Fun and fitness and family member screaming at each other. What could be better?

Love catches hold

Sophia is getting a handle on this "sitting up" deal.

Tre loves to prop her up, balance her on the padded diamond of her legs, and let her sit.

August09 142 

She is intense with the experience, with looking at the world from a new angle. The excitement gets to her, and she wobbles...and flails...and falls.

August09 143 

They try...

August09 152 

...and try again.

August09 153 

He thinks she's amazing.

August09 147 

And she thinks she's pretty amazing, too.

August09 148 

People said of these two, born almost fourteen years apart, that they would barely know each other. Like two different families, they said. He's too teenaged to care about a baby, and she's too young to really know him before he's gone.

Time will tell, but I say to all of them...

August09 164 

...never underestimate love.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone.