The kids and I traveled out to Noble County last weekend to see Mama Meg and Peepaw and Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jorge. And just as importantly, Stella, Mona and Rosie (the pups). We jammed the last twenty minutes of the ride to Uncle Jack’s Alpine Ghost CD. The kids love the first two songs of the CD because they are fast-paced and provide a beat that is easy to dance to wherever you are (car, bedroom, back yard). Both of the kids break into dance while listening to the tunes but in completely different fashions. Maria dances around like a nymph and Mario bangs his head and pumps his fists.
As we drove up the gravel drive to the farm-house, we all sang loudly out of our windows to alert the crew that we had arrived. The dogs took care of our arrival, also, by barking incessantly until we stopped the car and got out to acknowledge their presence. They could not withhold their excitement; they knew that the kids would beg to get them out of their pen so they could play with them. Little munchkin saviors. And sure enough, within ten minutes of arrival, Mario was tossing a ball to Stella and Maria was trying to get Mona to do tricks for treats. When Mona failed to adhere to Maria’s commands (she has only one leader – Aunt Sarah), Maria headed to the chicken pen. She tried like mad to hold a chicken but they were in no mood to be touched. She has the trick down – approach them quietly and calmly – but they still sense her presence and flee. There is one female that loves Peepaw and Maria keeps her hopes up that if she stands around Peepaw long enough while he holds her, she will fall in love with Maria, too.
We took a hike up to the swing a while later. It still floors me after three years that my folks live on a farm with 40+ acres of land. We can go out there whenever we want and hike through the woods looking at flowers and trees and mushrooms and caterpillars. We can skim through the creek streaming alongside the trail and admire the slate soaking up the sunshine through the leaves. We can study the circles on a fallen old oak tree to see how old it is and we can find all sorts of acorns and sticks to carry. I love that the kids get this experience growing up. I am a pure city girl so when I head into the woods with the kids, I feel like one, too. I get excited at seeing a caterpillar on a tree limb or a big white-capped mushroom alone in a pile of clovers.
After the hike, we ate a yummy wholesome meal and then visited the horses. Taz and Sabe. They are the most regal of creatures but I am still rather frightened of them. I remember being eight or nine and being scared to death to ride on one by myself. I still harbor that fear today when I saddle up. I get nervous thinking about Taz trotting away. But not Maria or Mario. They saddle up on Taz and ride her around the ring like it is their business. Mama Meg asks if they want to trot and there is no hesitancy: “YES” they reply. What a treat for a six and three and year old. The experience of riding and grooming and loving a horse – that has got to instill some seriously awesome life-long skills and lessons, doesn’t it?! Seriously, I do feel like it raises their confidence and may push them to take on opportunities and challenges that they face as they get older. Riding a horse is no easy task but they have always had the encouragement and patience of Mama Meg and Peepaw and now it is a rather easy task for them.
We got to start a fire in the evening and make some yummy s’mores. I could never tire of burnt marshmallows and chocolate and graham crackers. Maria and I were going to town on the marshmallows while Mario “roasted” graham crackers. The little guy found some way to actually get the spears of the tongs in the cracker without breaking it. What a freak. After we stuffed ourselves on those little sandwiches or goodness, the kids and I went down to our tent to call it a night. Maria and Mario were adamant that they were going to sleep outside alone, especially Maria. But within five minutes of wrapping herself in the sleeping bag in the tent, she allegedly got leg cramps and wanted to come inside. Dad went outside with Mario and I rubbed Maria’s legs. Within five minutes fo that, Mario wanted to come in to be near me. He begged me to sleep with him outside so dad and I switched roles. I am learning that it is much harder to sleep on the ground than it used to be ten years ago. I was hurting and at about 1 am, I decided that it was time for Mario and me to hit the bed in the house. I scooped him up while trying to hold the two pillows and flashlight and waddled up to the bed on the second floor of the house. He was out cold. I was not. I could not get back to sleep for some crazy reason.
Morning came and I heard tiny little voices. Mario was asking Mama Meg if they could see Duke’s grave (their dog that died). Maria was talking about something I could not understand. I looked out the window at the meadow and at the morning sky and I felt happy as if everything was perfect for those few seconds. Life was good and there was much for which to be grateful. I breathed in that moment and remember it still. I promised myself I would try not to forget it because it is a helpful talisman during those days of chaos and stress. We packed up later in the morning but only after two rides on the bulldozer and backhoe from a neighbor who had them at the farm in order to build a riding ring for Meg-pie. The kids were in heaven sitting in those big ol’ machines and moving gravel all over the place.
We headed back to the house and gave kisses and hugs to Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jorge and Mama Meg and Peepaw. We showered the dogs with treats and love. We waved good-bye to the chickens and horses. And we headed back down the country roads towards our city home packed full of country goodness.