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When we pulled in at 7:10p, he had turned off the lights and locked the door.  I’m grateful to the kid on the bike who kept him occupied long enough for us to arrive at our hotel for the night.  He gave us our key and our checkout time, and showed us where to drop the key “when the office isn’t open in the morning.”  Then he went home.

 

My son, whose mouth dropped open on seeing the “concrete teepees” I’d been promising for a month, jumped out of the car like he was spring loaded when we pulled up to old #8.  He didn’t care about going inside; he raced down the little hill to the playground where 5 other kids (from at least 3 families) were in the middle of a game.

 

The game changed to “We’re being attacked by aliens” as my spring-loaded son got there – he was the alien.  He ran, and made friends, and roared for an hour.  He stopped for water twice.

 

This place isn’t built to be inside.  The inside is small, old, dated, and a little run down.  The park bench outside the door is worn out and over-painted but it faces the center and the playground.  Tomorrow I will sit on it with my door open and watch the sunrise.  Tonight the air was fresh and clear after 8 hours of driving and adventuring.

 

It is the second time I’ve been here; both at this hotel (it seems like there should be a different word for it), and in this specific room.  The first time was with my dad almost exactly six years ago.  That night, he and I sat on the bench and chain smoked while we both wished for a beer, because it just seemed to suit the moment.  It would have tonight as well.

 

There are just these moments in life that feel like they should.  We are tired, but enjoying each other.  We are eating like crap, but not nutritionally toxic yet.  We are together, but increasingly apart.  He never asked me to come and play with him, and I never inserted myself into the play because I love seeing him react nimbly to whatever the play situation is.

 

I enjoy places like the Wisconsin Dells that are great, intense family smooshing-together events where lots of people are parallel to each other in the experience.  Like back decks and privacy fences where the overhead picture is dad after dad playing catch with child after child.

 

There are also places like Wigwam Village #2 in Cave City, KY that feel like front porches and community.   Where the warm air of the building chases you outside into the cool air of the evening and into the sight lines of people who will smile and nod and go back to what they were doing.  Where the manager goes home when the last guest has checked in and if you are fool enough to be on the road past dinner – you can be fool enough to drive up the street for a normal hotel room.

 

I love this place.  I love the memories that it holds for me, for my dad, and now for my son.  I love that it comes with an actual KEY, that you can unlock the door and it won’t lock behind you, and that in the morning when some two-parent family sends someone off to buy breakfast that I’m going to beg them to bring me a cup of coffee – and I expect they will.

 

Why would you stay at place like this if you were a person who wouldn’t get an extra cup of coffee?

 

 

 

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For 50 weeks it was just a good life.  People, work, situations, locations, and food that I loved all around me.  In a lot of ways it was like the year before with many of those same things in my life – just a different location.  I dreaded the last week, after weeks of randomly bursting into tears I didn’t know how to prepare for the final week of LLV.

Then I heard Dave talking to Jeff about the week between when he left and when Jeff & I did.  He said it was mainly a normal vacation week.  I … didn’t like it and it put too much pressure on me to be normal.  Then I gave it some thought –

It IS a week that we would likely have picked for a normal vacation week/end.

We are living out of suitcases.

We are doing extraordinary things to see people.

Neither of us remember what a vegetable looks like – MUCH less the last time we ate one.

I am focused on making sure there is one genuinely Jeff-centric thing a day.

We are getting silly and dedicated to strange things and ideas.

Jeff ate blueberry pie at breakfast today.

The idea that I might cook a meal is laughable.

I paid $15 for a picture in front of a green screen which then had Lego Batman filled in behind us.

I don’t know if it will work like this for the rest of the holiday weekend, but it turns out that Dave is right – we’re on vacation, celebrating in a place we love and when it is over – we’ll go home.

My man loves structure – so he totally supported the idea of doing my version of a wedding with no guests, no rules, and the only music was on an iPod with headphones.

My man loves the house he built with his own two hands – so when we had a window of time to construct a long long vacation in a place far from home … he suggested we see if we could make it happen.

My man loves his students – but when LLV came together he told them, “I’ll be back” and gave his all to a whole new group of students who loved him and his style.

My man loves his son – so when one thing led to another and there were two times that there were two week stretches of Boys Week he said, “OK.”  When I said that I would miss our son too much if I was gone for three weeks, that I wanted to take our son with me, he said, “OK”.

My man loves peace and quiet – when I suggested a bit of spring break should be spent in Loud and Crazy Town and the associated water parks, he said yes and suited up to play in the water.  He even tagged on a bit of his own fun at the end.

My man loves me, and I love him.  I just want to say that I am lucky and I am grateful.

 

 

 

I am nearly 40 years old and today I took possession of the memorabilia of my life.

My husband, upon seeing the volume, and having already picked up The Truck for the end of LLV broke a bit of sweat.  So part of my task today was to make sure that what we were taking down made sense.  Mom had set aside the things of my younger years so I was basically taking on 1988 – about 2004. I knew the day was coming so I had set two phrases into my mind –

1.  The Thing Is Not The Memory (thanks mom, for this phrase)

2.  Save the photographs but don’t look at them.

A lot of stuff went away today under Rule #1 (with a sub-rule about how badly do I NOT want my son to need to deal with it in 40 years).

I’m lucky that my husband said, “Thank you for doing this hard work” every time I burst into tears and started singing the “This Sucks and I Hate It” song.

I’m lucky that all of the letters I’ve ever saved were still there (and still are – like pictures I just smiled at their existence and kept moving).

I’m lucky that whatever that red sticky stuff at the bottom of the footlocker was didn’t ruin anything except a tourist book of California.

Best bits of the bunch

IMG_2303

I barely believed I got to wear this jersey when I was in HS.  I was a smart band geek who has never ever cared about how her hair looked and he was the football captain —- that only happens in John Hughes films.  The fact that it is still in perfect shape makes me smile.

I found a tall skinny lighter of John’s and a wood sculpture by a college friend named David (that for the life of me I don’t know how I ended up with).

Mom had tucked away a school project called My Autobiography which I wrote before any damn thing had happened to me (except maybe catching the Beth Case fly ball).

The letters from Paul’s backwards “F” days.

Photographs that prove that this smile has always been mine, that my mom rocks a camera, and WAY more than once my man’s hair has been more elaborate (and better looking) than mine.

I kept some stuff from that era that will likely get thinned when I have some extra time, but there was just so much kindness and joy in all of those boxes.  Hard stuff too, and things that are tough because I know how the story ended now – but overall, when I look back, I am so very pleased to have known the people I have.

Dear The Big Bang Theory  – Sheldon and Amy are one of the best couples in television today.  Please continue to give Amy the patience to wait because she and Sheldon should be endgame.  The D&D game is so wonderful and perfect and THANK YOU.  Even more so that Leonard & Penny and I *really* like them as a couple.

Dear Doctor Who – Series 702 has been a huge misfire for me, I’m not grooving on Clara and I hope that what looks like resolution actually was one.  I love Moffat as a writer, but an article that discusses him as a writer v show runner has some really valid points in it.  Mainly – that he should write and let someone else run the show.  That said there were moments in the series finale that I have already watched a half dozen times, that are finally WORTH rewatching.  Thank you.  It was a great kiss.  I am pleased.

Dear Glee – Oh I am so on the fence you guys, please don’t mess up the season opener.  He needs to put his hand back in his pocket.

After my son went to bed tonight I took a few minutes to look back over our day, and over this spring – to get a little perspective.

Developmentally, he’s at 4.75 – the last stand for Baby / Toddler mentalities where there is often one last visit back to being a “little” before he leaves those days forever.

In the last 90 days we’ve all been together and where we expected to be for 40 of them.

It is the last week of school for him, his soccer season just ended, and also, he understands clearly that LLV is ending.

He remembers the sense of our regular home, but he hasn’t been there in six months, so the last time I was there we Skyped his bedroom – he remembered it once he saw it – but he couldn’t bring it to mind independently there for a minute.

He is hearing a lot of “Last time during LLV …” for dinner at this place, for visiting that person, for going to this thing.

His mom has been gone a lot this spring, and she is not quite herself when she is around.

He might not know what the missing noun or verb of a conversation is (or he might for all I know) — but he certainly knows when the story he is hearing is *missing* whatever the point actually is.

So when dinner can’t be reeled in, or when he gets obsessed with the TV show about getting home, or when we use Plants v Zombies to both bond and snap at each other a little bit … I need to remember.

Dave & I have stress about staying on top of things in the next week, about the return into home life, about getting our flow back with my work hours, and much greater drives between everything.  We have our sadnesses and excitements about all of the things that are ending and beginning and seeing what LLV brings to our wider life over time.

We also have two other things –

1.  Control.

2.  An adult understanding of what is happening and what it means.

My son has spent 20% of his life on LLV.  I’ve spent 2.5% of my life on LLV.  

I need to remember that.

“Close your eyes. Now breathe in through your nose.  Deep. This is Grammy’s in the springtime.”   I put my hands on the side of his head and tilted his head up.  He was already smiling when I told him to open his eyes and there it was – looking up into a tall tree in full bloom with lilac.

lilac Syringa vulgaris in bloom

lilac Syringa vulgaris in bloom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They don’t turn on the air conditioner until it is way more consistently hot and so the house smells like lilacs when the breeze blows in.  It is the smell of springtime at Grammy’s, while we sat around and the five of us had dinner, while MaF said goodbye to Dave, while we talked about the cat.  It smelled like springtime.

I remember, vaguely, John bringing my attention to the lilac bush 20 something years ago.  I remember being so sad last year (with the wildly early spring here) that I had missed the lilac by a week.  Right now there are white, lavender, and deep purple bushes all over the place and with each of them I try very hard not to run over and just jam my face in them with my eyes closed and breathing deeply.

When I turned to send Jeff back inside to continue playing I looked up the back steps.  There MaF was, standing and smiling at me.  She knows I love them, that house, those years and the years still to come.  She may be Cookie Grammy, but now she is also the Grammy of the perfect, fragile, deep smell of real lilac in the spring.

I am a Yankee.  No matter how long I live in The South, I will never *really* be southern – I am genuinely ok with that.

Sometimes, my roots show and as LLV is in the final stretch I can see some places where they show a LOT.  For example, grass.  Kiddo and I spent two hours outside this morning at the park and in the yard.  I wore sandals with a lot of open spaces, and I sat down in the grass whenever I felt like it.  It was soft, and lush, and I would occasionally pet it like it was a big dumb dog sitting next to me.

I never. ever. ever. do that in the South.  Ever.

I can’t even imagine doing that.

The grass around my house is normal southern grass of varieties that can do well in crazy heat and erratic rain.  It has the potential to look lovely from the street.  It is hard and sharp.  It harbors fire ants and scorpions (at least I assume they travel through the grass because they get in my house somehow).  It is alive with things that think I am awful.

Fire ants

Fire ants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I react to fire ants, more so than most people I know.  My longest reaction to a single fire ant bite was on the order of MONTHS.  I blister and weep when they bite, they itch for weeks under the best of circumstances and are visible for longer than that.  They give me the creeps and I FREAK out when they are on me (or on kiddo).  I cannot imagine just lounging around in the grass in our yard.

The last time I was at the house by myself I decided to give myself a little gift in the way of a giant container of Death From Above.  I treated eighteen ant hills in my yard (including two that choked the lawnmower).  It looks promising, like I made a dent at least.

I am really glad that I had a good morning for lounging in the grass today.

If I had a dollar for every woman that I know that has said, “If I had an hour / day / week I could get this house whipped into SHAPE!” I would be able to hire a twice-a-week cleaning lady.

I am in the rare circumstance where I have had not a day, not a week, but TWO WEEKS where I was the ONLY person inside this house.  Let me tell you how “whippin’ it into shape” really goes.

First night – travel night, no expectations of accomplishment.

Second night – disorienting quiet so check the locks one more time and read / watch movie until it is time to sleep.

Third through Tenth night – pretty much just living life the way you did back in the day when you were routinely by yourself.

Eleventh night – kick up so much dust in the house that you can barely breathe and you hate yourself a little for not taking your contacts out before you started.

Last couple of nights – chillin’ with your friends because you are the “free wheelin’ mock single gal”.

My house is not whipped into shape.  The local goodwill is not awash in my useful refuse.  The dump will not be awash in my non-useful refuse. My life has clutter and things I keep around for no reason.  Turns out I’m ok with that.

When I was 3 each day was a surprise and I had not learned of the cycles of seasons and that you could count on the return of things like Christmas and Birthdays.

When I was 9 I understood the cycles and knew that things would come back around but it took for.ev.er. to move from one to the other.

When I was 39 I went home for a year, and in the blink of an eye it was over.

 

I never wish for time to stop, because the horrors that come with it are too great to wish on anyone.  I don’t want to be in my 39th year forever, but I do hope my mind stay strong for a very long time so that I can remember so many of the moments both here and there that surrounded me, comforted me, and brought me joy.