Friday evening, after feeding the kids a low-prep/low clean-up meal (Little Caesar's pizza), I gave instructions to the girls that went something like this: "Daisy, Goldie is taking care of Hans and putting him to bed, and she's getting Mette ready for bed, and then Penny is going to actually put Mette to bed. So, since Hans is kind of hard, I need you to put the boys and Summer to bed. . . ." At this point Daisy grimaced so I added, "She didn't have a nap today so it shouldn't be too hard. Just, even if she cries, just shut her door and she'll pass right out. And Dais and Gold, Penny is your assistant, so she can help make bottles or keep kids happy or whatever you need. And I told her you guys can bake more cookies, but not until after the little kids are in bed because they'll just get too messy again. But Penny, you still need to go to bed before too late because you were up early this morning and we will be up way late for fireworks tomorrow night. And Dais and Gold, by the time we get all the way up there and do what we need and then drive home, it will probably be super late, so you guys can just watch a movie, or rest on the couches or play games, or whatever you think. But please clean up first. I know, you guys always already do that, but since we'll be home so late, I just don't want to worry about cleaning up. Oh, and everyone needs to do their chores. And Daisy, I did most of your dishes, so can you wipe the counters for Abe since he's at work? And if the boys want to watch a show, tell them they need to get their pajamas on and take out their garbages first. But I already did all of Jesse's medicines and eye drops and stuff, so you don't have to worry about those. And girls, please just be really nice to each other and don't get frustrated with each other. Just . . . be patient and don't get mad, ok?"
(And, of course, it hasn't always been like this. We had to have kids. And give them 12 plus years of aging before we had competent babysitters who could take all that blathered instruction with a nod and eyes still fixed on the book they’re reading [because it’s all just run-of-the-mill routine around here and none of it a surprise or an unknown]. And then, we had to actually keep having babies so there would still be kids needing tended once anyone was old enough to tend. It was rather a lot of work all to have . . . kids who can watch kids while we head out for an evening. But it’s nice to be here all the same.)
Anyway, after the instructions, Mike and I headed off to Bear Lake. The hour and forty-minute drive stretched unaccountably to over two (due to the smallest stretch of construction around the tiniest, little, valley-town of Mantua [which is pronounced nothing like it is spelled . . . mant-away . . . man-away]). I asked him speculative questions about whether he thought certain calamitous circumstances could ever strip people enough of vanities and self-interest to push them towards becoming a more united, Zion-like people. (He didn’t know. Neither did I.) And I asked him about his grandpa Hansen and if he remembered him. And, of course, we talked about various bits of nonsense (like what a disservice a single-lane/construction-ahead sign turns out to be when its placed miles before the necessary merge [everyone jamming and squishing into one lane long before needed]).
Eventually we arrived at our little cabin. I stepped out of our truck and my heart nearly exploded with joy. It was just one of those moments of unexpected satisfaction and happiness. I hadn’t been to our place since February -- when it was cold and wet, and life was still impossible due to a newborn in the family, and the basement was flooded. But suddenly, here I was, and it was evening, and the sun was setting over the lake in the distance, and birds and bugs were sounding in greater abundance than they ever do at home, and a little chipmunk was zipping about, and I was trying to capture him in video on my phone to show the kids (we’ve seen ground squirrels a plenty and even a weasel -- fur changed all to white – dashing through winter snow and poking his head up to look at us over every new rocky hiding spot, but we’ve never seen a chipmunk at our place).
And I know that doesn’t sound like much. But I wish I could just . . . hand you the feel of that moment because I forgot that life is exhausting and complicated and full of demands, and I only felt like everything was simple and good and like everything . . . was happiness.
I didn’t even care that inside the cabin was a rather intimidating collection of dead bugs (who had snuck in early in the winter and never found their way back out) waiting to be swept up, or that all the contents of the basement – bed rails and headboards, mattresses and bedding, pak-n-plays and miscellany – were currently smashed into the entirety of the main-floor living area. Nor did I care that we weren’t there to relax, we were there to work.
So Mike and I set ourselves to popping all the basement doors off their hinges (carpet was coming in a few days and, apparently, we were supposed to have doors removed before that happened) and carrying them ever-so-cautiously up a staircase with a sharp turn and placing them next to all the other things that had, of necessity, migrated upstairs. (Incidentally, Abe asked me recently what I will do once he is on his mission and not here to help Mike lift things. And I had no answer for him. It is almost always Abe who is Mike’s partner for all things strenuous these days, and I don’t know how we ever managed before he came – and grew strapping – or how we shall ever manage with him not here again.) Then Mike emptied some rocks out of our truck that he plans on placing near the cabin, watered our few small pines, and moved more things upstairs; and I wiped the dust off of counters that had sat unused for four months and swept up all the bugs I could get to around bunk bed parts in the kitchen, etc. And then Mike took me down to the one little highway running through town, and we bought fries and hamburgers and corn-dogs at LaBeau’s (and we should have bought raspberry shakes as that’s kind of what people do at Bear Lake but . . . it was cold). (I will add, that, despite LaBeau’s being where we went that night, and despite it being the most traditional favorite-food joint at Bear Lake, Mike and I are also rather attached to Zipz – which advertises its shakes as “least famous” as opposed to LaBeau’s “most famous”, is usually much less crowded, and has the cutest little old motor boats made into tables.)
After that we drove home and talked about the danger of hitting deer at night on those roads. And Mike assured me it was much less a danger in summer when they had plenty to eat up higher. And I probably told him about the time when a perfectly black cow was right along that road in the middle of a perfectly black night, and I almost gave myself a perfect heart attack by almost hitting it (even though I’ve certainly told him about it before . . . and I was probably less close to hitting it than I believed). And I wondered out loud why my memories of going to Bear Lake as a child seemed to always be at night even though my dad had summers off and would have been around for us to leave at any time of day. And we stopped at a gas station and Mike came out with some packs of Starburst, and I decided once and for all that yellow and orange were the only colors worth eating if one was going to eat a Starburst at all (even though I know my kids think it’s pink).
And then, a little after midnight, we were home. Abe had just returned from work, Daisy and Goldie admitted to watching an episode of the British Baking Show without me, and all six of the other little people were sound asleep with shoes by their doors waiting to be filled with a treat from “the shoe fairy” (because it’s a tending tradition Daisy started for the kids to help them go to bed without too much trouble and it always must happen now . . . even if it is a strain on the shoe fairy to remember to bring treats).