We went on a trip recently. A 2,311 mile trip from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, LA then North along the Californian coast back to San Francisco. We did it in a rental RV. We did it in 18 days. We did it with minimal planning. We did it as a family. What we didn’t do was kill each other. Which was good. I had half expected we would. Sharing a 3,500sq foot house can, at times, bring us close. I didn’t hold out much hope for the five of us spending two and a half weeks together in a box on wheels that was smaller than our kitchen. The truth is that in that 30′ box, along those 2,311 miles we stuck to one another like glue. We gave Eldest the over-cab bed to himself. A strategic move that gave him his own personal space with curtains where he could read sci-fi and pass wind and secretly play on his phone under the blanket when he thought we were all asleep. On our trip Eldest wasn’t too cool to hold hands anymore. He reached for mine on several occasions. Husband was free from work which meant free from distraction. It’s been a lifetime since I had the opportunity to look into his eyes for that length of time each day. It was lovely. Middle found her happy place. She got to play in the waves and pools for hours each day. I didn’t make her brush her hair. One day she had donuts for breakfast. Youngest got to ride his first roller coaster – the 91 year old Giant Dipper on Santa Cruz boardwalk. He got to marvel at humpback whales, spend long evenings poking the camp fire with sticks. Some days he didn’t have to wear shoes. He got to stay up as late as the grown-ups. Me. I got to see ridiculous places, I got to swim in hot springs, I got to stare at one of our planet’s natural wonders, I got to watch the sunset over Big Sur, I got to feel the heat of the desert. I fell naturally and wholeheartedly in love with going bare-faced and climbing into yesterday’s muddy clothes. I loved not caring about washing them. I loved having little to no wifi and cooking dinner on an open fire. I loved that we could tidy our entire home in less than 7 minutes. I loved leaving each place wanting more. I loved noticing every little detail around me. I loved not taking anything for granted. I loved that there was no time to become complacent. But what I loved as much as the awe inspiring sights and the once in a lifetime experiences was having my babies and my man so close. I could hear them dreaming. I slept well at night. We sat on the beach at Carmel, just North of Big Sur. I spent the best part of 40 minutes trying to take a splinter from Eldests foot, the other three made dens out of camping chairs and beach towels. At the South end of the beach there was a wedding taking place. A seagull stole my bag of pumpkin seeds. I could not have been happier. So now we are home. We have spread out again. Eldest has assumed his position as oft-sullen pre-teen. Husband has gone back to work. Youngest has to wear shoes again. But I have noticed subtle changes. Husband and I are looking at one another more often. Eldest sits closer to me at the dinner table. Middle has really messy hair. Sometimes Youngest stays up as late as the grown-ups.
I don’t hastily slap mascara and concealer on my face before I head out the door. I get out more and rest assured that the fresh air will make me more beautiful than any tube of concealer can. I notice more. Sometimes I put my jeans on dirty and it doesn’t matter – no one dies. I have slowed down. My heartbeat has slowed down. And I like it. I like it a lot.