We leave for Seattle on Saturday. These grey days are days of errands and packing; loose ends and last minute planning.
For the past three days the littles have been at forest-school summer camp, making bows and arrows, fashioning clay animals, and toasting marshmallows in the woods. T has been taught how to light the fire. R is the only one who comes home without fingernails ingrained with the kind of mud that won’t wash off without a long soak. ‘I just haven’t had time to do the mud kitchen yet,’ he explains. C is reunited with his dear pre-school friend A. They like to do lots of playing in the mud kitchen together he tells me. I ask him what they make. ‘Well, mud pies of course,’ he replies.
It seems like the strangest kind of indulgence, to have them on holiday and yet not have them with me. We had years worth of childcare vouchers saved, which, with C starting school in the autumn, we’re not going to use. But when we booked, we didn’t know that B would be at home too. And so I feel a strange guilt — not about the littles, who are having a far better time than we would be giving them — but a vaguer guilt about those summers when I could have done with this kind of help but didn’t have it, and to those who can’t afford to make a choice like this.
So, packing, errands, loose ends. I write edgeofevening on my to do list, feeling that here too is a dropped thread. What have I said & what haven’t I? What happened to the book posts that I meant to write — the one about rereading Carol Shields & how addictive I found her prose. The one about my entire book group liking a book, a book that I still can’t get out of my head (Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel). The posts about the end of term and the books the children have been reading and loving. The one about how I’ve (semi-accidentally) taught C to read, how, unlike the others, he has no hesitation in just picking up an older sibling’s book and going for it. ‘Seems I can do these early readers,’ he commented, waving one of R’s beginner’s chapter books in my direction as I cooked breakfast.
We’re road tripping to Yellowstone. Camping in Yellowstone and the Tetons. Driving across to Portland and then back up to Seattle. We’ll be in Idaho for the eclipse. It seems that if you have one ‘trip of a lifetime’, all you really want is another. It all started with this, though in the end we’re not going to Tippet Rise & I don’t even feel that sad because it was about the landscape, not just the sculptures. We’ve watched Kelly Reichardt’s entire oeuvre (Certain Women remains my absolute favourite), seen My Own Private Idaho for the first time. Read Gretel Ehrlich & reread Annie Proulx. We’re ready, but not ready, because, for one, who is ever ready when travelling with kids? But also because there’s so much pleasure in the anticipation.
It’s time to drive in the rain now, to pick up my muddy children. Last night, in that liminal & disorientating space between consciousness and sleep, I lay and thought of them, cosy in their beds, their little bodies curled in nests of cuddly toys, and I could hardly believe that they are mine.