When I agreed to drive home from our seven weeks away it seemed like a good idea. I knew I’d have collected various suitcase filling objects and I wasn’t sure we’d be able to fit our stuff in the belly of a plane or comfortably underneath our seats.
As predicted, we left Groton Long Point yesterday morning with a car stuffed full, so much so that the only way to get to the cooler full of drinks was through the rolled down back window of the Four Runner (the door was blocked by a finicky bike rack). The roof rack above was filled to the brim with dismantled Hello Kitty bikes, dirty towels and random soft bags with items that normally do not go together (shampoo and shoes and Barbies, for example). I placed my precious laptop against the safest spot I could find (next to my feet on the passenger side floor) and surrounding us in every other empty space was an explosion of brought along foods, coloring books, items from the pencil boxes, empty Dunkin Donut bags and pillows and toys.
We rolled into Raleigh after eleven and promptly released the girls.
Said Grace later; “Mom. It’s like we were in jail and we didn’t even do anything bad to get there!”
All along the way I kept thinking that the trip could be described as Yin and Yang.
Yin: Passing around the nectarine and pear I’d brought and watching each family member take a bite.
Yang: Breakfast at McDonald’s (the girls and I didn’t actually eat it, so maybe that’s yin). But dinner at Wendy’s? So yang.
Yin: Outsmarting the GPS that was determined to take us over the George Washington Bridge. We found our way to the Tapanzee and were certain it would be smooth sailing all the way home.
Yang: Three hours of stop and go traffic through D.C.
Yin: Both girls falling asleep and staying that way through most of D.C.
Yang: The cries from the back seat when they woke with sore backs and crampy legs.
Yin: Listening to Sophie sing the words to Call Me, Maybe? (beginning to end) in her high-pitched lovely little voice.
Yang: Listening to Sophie singing the words to Call Me, Maybe? (beginning to end) after twelve or so hours on the road.
Yin: Listening to Adele full blast during my turn at the wheel.
Yang: Being so engrossed in that beautiful voice and missing the last big freeway change.
Yin: The Map Quest directions that said the trip would be eleven hours door to door.
Yang: Fourteen hours later peeling myself from the seat of the car and walking around my house, happy to be here but exhausted and with a headache.
Yin: Pechie’s bowl of freshly made spaghetti and meatballs in the fridge.
Yin: A fridge full of groceries that she bought for us so I wouldn’t have to take the girls in the car again today.
Yin: My house; relatively clean.
Yang: Out of toilet paper and coffee.
Yin: Kids off playing.
Yin: Me typing at my space.
Yin: Back to blogging and writing and running and yoga class and preschool and my juicer and my friends (both real and bloggy).
Saturday morning began with my running group the WannaBeasts (10.5 minutes per mile) and eight sweaty miles through the greenway around Shelly Lake, behind Crabtree Valley Mall. There was ninety-eight percent humidity and while it felt like running through soup, it was fast and easy (even downright pleasant) thanks to the conversation with my partner Nancy (whom I’d just met) and the energy of the team.
Afterward, instead of heading home to shower, I drove to Peachie’s for one last visit to her empty house and to drop off the baby clothes that the girls had gathered from their closet the day before (during their own packing session for Maine).
“It’s too small, it goes in the baby pile!”
I sat in Peachie’s back yard drenched in sweat and snot (my poor skirt had served as kleenex on the trail) and watched squirrels in pine trees pull branches from limbs and scurry away. I wondered if this is how they collected their nuts. I reminded myself that I loathe squirrels, especially after they had taken refuge in my attic a few years ago.
I called my sister and we talked.
I called my Peach and we talked even more.
When I couldn’t stand the dried sweat a second longer I left for home, driving and listening to the radio stations that are playing the same songs on rotation this Summer. I know all of the words.
I showered and threw on a typically scary post run outfit; a comfy bra, white and purple stretchy shorts that say, “I heart Saints,” a washed blue KBIA t-shirt that I intentionally cut down the front and unintentionally ripped under the arm, and bright pink CEP compression calf sleeves I’d received in the mail the day before.
I don’t like to match my clothes post run. The more mismatched I look the better I feel. I’m pretty sure that most runners feel the same way about their recovery outfits. It’s not mentioned much, but take a look at most running blogger’s post run photos and it becomes obvious. It might even be an unsaid qualification for calling oneself a runner.
As happens after a good medium to long run I was tired. I shuffled around the house until I couldn’t bring myself to shuffle anymore and by 3:00 curled up on the sofa with the girls for an episode of Sponge Bob.
I promptly fell asleep.
Grace soon nudged me and said that she was tired, too, and surprisingly both girls followed me upstairs where we crawled into their beds. Unexpected as neither girl has taken a nap since 2010. When I woke and realized that it was 7:00 p.m., I knew there’d be a long night ahead.
We came downstairs where Brian had made dinner and had it waiting on the kitchen bar; cheeseburgers, french fries and onion rings.
I cut up some lettuce and tomato and made plates of food that we took outside to eat by tiki lamps.
The girls were happy. Their dad and I were civil. We talked about a friend of a friend who at thirty-eight had just died from Frontal Lobe Dementia. There was a silent acceptance that this life is too short and that happiness is imperative. The girls laughed as their stuffed puppies “tried” to eat from the plates of food. The family unit was working as it should all the time.
With renewed energy I decided to tackle the packing that waited for me; my empty suitcases left for last.
I tucked my iPhone into my bra after pressing play on my audiobook version of Wild. As I gathered my running clothes and bathing suits I listened to the chapter about Cheryl’s mother’s horse named Lady and how she had become old. With her mother gone, she knew that she needed to tend to the horse.
The heartbreaking account of what came next made the placement of items into my luggage slow and deliberate. I listened while folding my piles and piles of must haves, acting out my work while my heart swelled and pounded from the depth of the pain I was hearing.
For two hours I continued; Cheryl’s journey on the Pacific Coast Trail and my journey through my stuff.
I have much too much. As I looked around at the things I knew I’d need and then back to the closet for the things that I might need and into the extra closets for things I never wear but probably need, I felt overwhelmed and a little disgusted.
I listened to Cheryl talk about Monster, the name for the pack she carried on her back, and wished that I could lessen my reliance on consumerism, so that all I needed was a pack and my kids. If only that could be enough.
When it became too overwhelming I decided to leave the mess to which I will return to today.
I sat on the master bed and continued with the story while gazing at the mound of fabrics and colors, pants and tunics, hats and necklaces, bathing suits and skirts. Underpants will go in last.
I connected to Cheryl’s feelings about her writing. How she’d always written, but the unattained dream of writing her own novel had left her disappointed and embarrassed. She wrote about making the decision to make it happen.
Remembering how I felt when reading the Hunger Games, how I liked the author and appreciated her words seemingly written for me, I added Cheryl Strayed to my list of imaginary friends. I might not understand a lot of what she went through on the PCT, but I certainly relate to her life as a writer and a woman.
By 10:30 the house was dark and bedtime was near. The girls brushed their teeth and chose their bedtime books. I imagined that I’d get them to sleep and then sneak away for some alone time, to ponder my day and plan the next. But instead, I just lay between my daughters thinking.
In two days we’ll be back at the beach that has been home for thirty five years. I will see my friends who have known me my entire life. I’ll see the newest babies and write by the sound of the sea.
Instead of sneaking away I closed my eyes and listened to the breathing of my girls, while hoping for a future that looked a lot like this day.
A day of sweat and books. Of food and fun. Introspection and civility. A life with purpose, happiness, respect, restful naps, laughs, and possibly less in the way of stuff.
All things are possible.
With that I fell to sleep. The best sleep I’ve had in ages.
The place we chose, six miles past a paved road in the land of wild horses made it easy to forget the outside world. We four by foured it all along the sandy dunes to get to civilized land, since the roads aren’t paved that far down the Barrier Islands of North Carolina’s coast.
I spent my days sitting on the beach watching the girls play, giving me a chance to read a real book with real pages (as opposed to the audio versions), while Brian manned his fishing pole.
It’s funny how a break from reality lifts the doldrums (monotony you don’t even realize until you escape) and everyone is so much more peaceful.
The wild horses have added to the mystique and magic of the place.
They’ve been living along the shores of the Outer Banks since the 1500’s, descendents of the Spanish. We know this because we read up from books lining the rentals’ shelves. They had been pushed off Spanish ships that were sinking and their tough stocky bodies mixed with determination to live gave them power to swim to land.
The horses have survived longer than the Colonies and Blackbeard the Pirate and now roam the beaches, heads down nibbling sea grass. Every morning we would watch to see them coming up over the sandy hills and at dinner time we’d crane our necks to catch a glimpse as they’d disappear through the trees to where they’d sleep.
I managed to run one day, despite a nagging pain in my left calf. I probably should have given myself a few more days to nurse the leg (sore for a week already), but I couldn’t resist a beach run with the horses.
Beach running, I’d forgotten, is much tougher than running on nicely paved streets. My attempt at five miles turned into three with a half mile walk up the dunes back to the house. When I returned I was dripping with sweat, but stuck my legs in the hot tub anyway, hoping the heat would loosen the pull.
Amazingly, it felt much better the next day and tomorrow I will attempt a street run as soon as the kids are dropped off at school.
Yesterday, Brian’s old friend Uncle Al drove up from Raleigh and it was great to see him playing on the beach with the girls and their dad.
I watched from my chair while the boys got my daughters started with drippy sand castles, which kept them occupied for long enough that I was able to get all the way to page two hundred fifty in my book. Have I mentioned how much I’m loving The Help? It’s about a writer and a story she must tell and I’m delighted by the surprise (I can relate more than a little).
Last night I left the guys to party it up with Crown Royal and Coke and only had to come up once to tell them to turn down the music. They were having a good time, but I chose to spend my evening in a wicker chair next to my sleeping girls, while putting the finishing touches on the piece I sent to GeniusMoms.com.
The piece I was working on, entitled Infertility, Hope and Mother’s Day, turned out fine. It was a difficult one to write, but sometimes I need to be reminded of how much I wanted my monstrous monsters. If it doesn’t get published there, I’ll post in Mommyland.
It was early when we got up this morning and not at all a beach day. I attempted to get something posted, but the 10:00 check out time made it impossible.
We are home now. I’m back in my writing chair.
Back in the saddle tomorrow in regard to my diet and my running, school for the girls and work for their dad.
The saddle. It’s a good fit, but sometimes I wish we were more like those horses we left trolling the sandy dunes; wild, free, with nothing to do but laze and graze. Those horseys have no idea they’re on a permanent vacation.