We returned, last night, from a week in North Carolina visiting family. We got home at midnight, a little past. We were tired. One of us had a fever. The day had been long, and sometimes fraught, but mostly it was a very good day, the penultimate in a string of very good days spent in close proximity to each other. Tomorrow we go back to school and work (unless the fever persists), back to lending ourselves out to other people who need us.
Our house looks mostly the same but also subtly different. The trees are golden with fall, the horses are fuzzier with new coats, the dogs are thinner after a week of wondering and worrying. Sadly, one of the guinea pigs is dead. He was old and his death does not surprise me. Later we’ll dig a new grave by the garden fence and have a short burial. Maybe tonight we’ll raise our glasses of wine, milk and water and toast his memory. Mostly, our home is reassuringly familiar and comfortable, despite the dirt on the floor, the cobwebs in the corners, the dirty laundry piles that didn’t manage to sort themselves while we were gone. This is one of the reasons I like to travel: the coming home part. The way we reacquaint ourselves with our ourselves, the clues we find about how we live in this world, the New Hampshire world, the home world.
I supposed I could have made all the children return to school today. They certainly seem to have enough energy. I even threatened the middle boy that if he didn’t stop bouncing from floor to ceiling I was going to drive him right over to fourth grade and leave him there until three o’clock. But we needed this last day together, all of us, caught in the honey of in-between. Not yet back to real life but definitely returned from vacation.
Soon I’ll take the youngest boy to the video store and let him pick a family movie. Then we’ll stop at the farm to pick up our weekly allotment. Then we’ll come right back home and cook a dinner everyone will eat (which means it will be hamburgers or pasta) and have Family Movie Picnic, which is what we call it when I’m too tired to insist we all eat at the table. Bedtimes will be early and everyone will have a bath beforehand. M and I are due some of our own time together – maybe chatting on the porch, maybe watching a movie rated meaner than PG, maybe just doing chores and heading to bed ourselves – before tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day and so on all line up to take their turn at us. We are needed in the larger world, but also in this smaller world, the one in which we reside as a population of five.