Not everyone can say that, who lives in civilization, and I know that we are lucky.
The sounds of a large music festival downtown softly waft up to our little piece of borderline gentrification, creating a low-key vibe as we putz about, trying to encourage fire out of slightly damp timber in our little chiminea. The weather is crisp, that tease of autumn early for Ohio this year, making the rite of passage into the post-Labor Day world that much easier and that much harder, all the same. She hasn't come to stay just yet, that blessed season, but for now she is here and I am more than glad to wear my first real hoodie of the season, to drink my decaf pumpkin spice latte and revel in the anticipation of more days like this, more feelings like this.
We make a last-minute textual invite to friends of ours who come over within the half-hour and we roast s'mores while we talk both small and big about our lives and our experiences and our views. We commiserate our similarities and appreciate our differences and it is so nice, to have people in our lives like this, to share these small moments with.
It is in these rare moments that I know that this is my life, as it was meant to be.
Sometimes it all works together like kismet. We get up, the kids get up, everyone is amicable and it hits us, we can actually do something with this day and we do -- we tackle the chores of getting everyone presentable and prepared and we make it out of the house before lunch, before naps, before the day is completely swallowed by the television and the neighbor children and time outs and the drudgery that comes with being young and parents.
We go to a local festival in my hometown, one I've gone to nearly every year for as long as I can remember living here. I sent my silent hopes into the wind as we travel to our destination, as I always do whether it be the grocery store or a wedding or anything in between that today will be a good day for us, for them, at all.
Surprisingly, despite the unfamiliarity and the crowds, providence provides.
Our kids discover the wonder of a bouncy castle, smaller than the child-centric attractions, tucked away and sponsored (as so many things are at this particular festival) by a local church and they embrace it, joyously laughing and playing together with each other and their father, beckoning me to join but I decline, because someone has to watch our stuff. This is not without slight sadness or longing, because I so often am the odd one out, taking the photos, writing the stories, or watching the stuff.
But I also personally loathe bouncy castles, so I'm not completely heartbroken.
They hold our hands and walk through the crowds, asking us what's that? and it's a doggie! with equal parts of wonder and glee and I think, maybe this is what it is like to have a normal outing with your children.
They don't even show trepidation at the fire engines parked for kids to explore, both of them fearlessly asking to be upt, upt so they can sit in the seats and look so big and so small simultaneously that I suddenly am overcome by it all, by their bigness and their smallness and us here as a family in this place that I have known longer than any other and this, ohmygod this, this here is everything I've ever felt homesick for for my entire life, even as a child knowing it was a place I'd never before been.
We find a vendor selling bean bag animals and my kids are fascinated by them, Kiedis saying whah is dat, is a snake, ssssssssss! and six dollars later they both have snakes to take with them, their first mementos from a trivial life event. I notice a lizard in the piles of animals identical to one we have at home that they have taken little interest in, one I dug out of a box at my mother's and took home because maybe someone would play with it and I am nearly positive I just repeated my own history.
We run into people I knew in high school, people I know through my parents, and it is all pleasant and unexpected but not overwhelming, just casual, just life as we live it.
We only briefly mention the last time we came to this place as a family three years ago, a bizarre attempt at functioning in a non-functional situation. But it isn't for shame, or denial, just matter-of-fact without hidden meanings or strings attached and that's that, a truth we've come to peace with and is just as much a part of our family tapestry as our children's births, no more and no less.
Of course, the kids grow tired and with that comes the tantrums so we leave the impeccable weather and the childhood memories blurring between my own and their own and we go home, to enjoy the rest of the afternoon in near idyllic peace, the windows open to the crisp air and new beginnings.
The smell, as much of it as I can gather through my clogged passageways, tells me that I'm on the right track. Two steps of purpose and I'm in front of the stove, stirring the amalgamation of my own creation in what is still, four years later, my most favorite effing stock pot. I will be very sad when I have to replace it someday. The marinara starter is beginning to look and smell like something edible, and I go back to chopping up eggplant for the bake I will begin once the sauce hits it's second round of boiling.
Nearly all of the ingredients in the stock pot are from my little raised garden bed; all of the eggplant for the parmesan-style bake are my own as well. Kyle takes the kids outside for the third time of the day, at their own request, because the weather could not be more majestic and somehow I feel that they know this, for all the living they've barely done they somehow know how fleeting truly beautiful weather is in their home climate. I have the kitchen to myself, a rarity, and I fully embrace the joy I get from preparing a meal from legitimate scratch.
It doesn't get much better than cooking the food you grew yourself, let me tell you.
I manage to time things pretty well and dinner is served (though the kids had their fish sticks already) and I only slightly sulk when Kyle sets them up in the living room at their play table to eat, bypassing the dining room table we promised ourselves we'd eat at all the time and so far are lucky to do so occasionally. The breeze is better in the living room, I remind myself, and make the effort to be and enjoy the moment, watching the people I love eat the food I grew and cooked for them and feeling very blissful about the whole thing, the simple act of making a bigger-deal family meal for once.
After we clean up our dishes we go back outside, to explore the new mums I planted in my front urns and to play with sticks in the backyard, rolling and giggling and embodying everything that is the simple joys of life and love and family and childhood and I feel so full, so nourished from these tiny experiences that everything else melts away, a bit.
Things like wrestling a tantruming Tova to comb her wet hair post-bath bring me back, of course, into the less-shiny present, but that's pretty much my life anyway, and being present is better than being absent, anyhow.
I go to bed after a glass of red wine (lord, how I've missed wine) and I leave the window in our bedroom open to let in the remainder of that crisp breeze before summer returns later on in the week. I know this will mean that we will snuggle more than we have been (dude, two people with TERRIBLE allergies do not good spooners make) and the thought is enough to ease my mind away from it's usual churning and burning towards a peaceful slumber, something alluding me most of the summer.
For everything we've been through, I could not be more grateful to have the little things wrapped up in weekends like this to remind me that true happiness isn't something to be found out there -- it is right in the palm of my hand, in my own backyard, in my children's eyes, and in the twilight stars.