[(un)relaxeddad, yes, this is www.theleaf.com. weekend tickets are on the pricey side, but for a biannual family retreat we can’t beat it. there are lots of other festivals around here in the spring and summer, but we’ve been going to LEAF since before we were married, so it’s home to us.]
sunday was a relief – or rather, a series of relieved, euphoric exhalations. i drove the interstate back to the festival sunday morning, preferring not to risk the stability of duck’s stomach, despite missing the lovely curvy roads over the mountain.
i had mentioned the shuttle bus to her the night before. sunday morning was all about getting out of the house so we could maybe catch it into the festival instead of having to hike three-quarters of a mile into camp. i was totally up front with duck about this. “if we don’t leave soon, we might not be able to ride the shuttle bus.” when, in reality, we might have been out of luck already depending on how fast the lot filled up.
eventually i stopped checking the clock on the drive in. there was either going to be space there or not. nothing i did at that point would have any effect one way or the other.
i slowed down and stopped by the entrance to the offsite parking.
“is there space here?” i asked, quelling the anxiety in my belly.
“oh, sure,” said the older man at the entrance. “plenty. go on up and catch the shuttle bus down.”
“YAY!” i hollered. “duckie, we get to ride the shuttle bus!” she responded in kind.
the ride in was lovely. we crammed into a seat with two other girls. i got to look out the window instead of having to watch the road, which is a rare treat. duckie was babbling excitedly, something about a pirate treasure, but i can’t remember exactly what.
at the entrance we slathered on the sunscreen and headed up the hill.
it was a rather odd feeling to join the group on a sunday morning. sundays at LEAF are usually slow, bleary-eyed and lazy – putting off the camp breakdown and clean-up as long as possible, depending on weather. the weather on sunday was glorious, so there didn’t seem to be much of a hurry to do much of anything. speaking of bleary-eyed, brian was on the hurting side that morning and i doubt he would have been heartbroken if we’d been an hour later.
i dropped off duckie and let her badger him into taking her swimming.
“i’ll meet you down there in a little while,” i said. “and i’ll check in with the h-u-l-a-h-o-o-p lady too.” saturday i had commissioned a child-sized hula hoop for duckie because of her crazy talent and determination with it. i prayed the lady had remembered.
she had. “oh my god,” i said, breathless with joy and anticipation. “you have totally made my mother’s day!” i had her tape it with pink and purple and silver sparkle tape, then went down to check in with the two of them at the “beach” – the sandy bank on the lake where the younger kids could splash and play.
last year we had both stayed knee-deep in the water with her. she was so tiny and the other kids seemed so much bigger, it was impossible not to stay close by.
this year, i found brian before i found her. he was sitting on the bank a couple of feet from the sand, and pointed a few feet down the dock, where duckie was jumping into the water repeatedly. there was no hesitation this year, no nervousness around the water, just a happy bouncing splashing little girl who seemed to play well with other kids and – wonder of wonders – actually got out of the water when we asked her to. like the others, she came out shivering and quivering and slightly blue in the lips. but she was grinning hugely and she warmed up quickly in the sun.
a quick lunch at the barbeque shack, sitting by the lake because we were all too hungry to bother finding a spot anywhere else, then on to the hoops. she didn’t figure out that she could actually take her new hula hoop home with her for a while – and even then, she was happy to share with other kids.
it’s really cool as a parent to have other people stop and stare at my kid in a good way – and not just because she’s cute (which she is) but because she’s doing something amazing. she can keep the hoop going for a good thirty seconds or so – and she’s starting to understand that if it drops down around her hips she can hula faster to bring it back up. it’s hilarious – this tiny little girl throwing her hips back and forth like she’s been doing it since birth. i’m very pround to say that i taught her how, which totally makes up for how idiotic i looked trying to do tricks with the bigger hoops.
back to camp and she played with neighboring kids for a while, then disappeared.
brian was breaking down camp and she was Helping. i was watching the brave people on the trapeze set up a ways down the hill. i hadn’t heard her voice in a minute or so.
“honey, where’s our daughter?” i asked, mostly to annoy him.
he stood up and looked around. to his credit, he didn’t say, “i thought she was with you.” he said, “shit. she was just here a second ago.” and she really was – it couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds since i had caught a glimpse of the white dress out of the corner of my eye.
“four points?” our friend jeff said.
nothing else was said, but since there were four people at camp we all set off in different directions, calling her name. (it occurs to me now that we should have left someone at camp in case she wandered back.) i didn’t have time to panic – anxious, yes, getting to wonder about kid-snatchers and that British girl in , but the meds are apparently working nicely and besides, panicking wasn’t going to help.
i circled back around, stopping at camps on the way to give her description, her name, and our campsite. there was no one back at camp, which scared me. someone should have found her by now. she couldn’t have gone that far.
brian appeared over the hill with duck in a stranglehold around his neck. “she was down the hill,” he explained. “she said she wanted to go swimming.”
(last year, you might recall, she had said she wanted to go dancing and headed off the same way, because we weren’t moving along in a timely enough manner.)
apparently she reached the bottom of the hill and realized she was by herself and she didn’t know which way to go. she started to cry, and a woman came up and asked her where her mommy was. brian saw the woman pick her up and about lost his footing running down the hill.
“she’s mine!” he hollered, not so much to snatch her back as to prevent her from being taken to the lost kids tent. duck went to him willingly, crying with relief.
we did end up going back to the lake to take her swimming. and this time she stopped quite a few times and looked back to shore, to make sure she could still see me.
i splurged and got a duhks cd (they’re much better live, i’ve decided, or maybe i just didn’t get the right album.) we caught the shuttle bus back to the car and drove home. between the heat and fatigue, not to mention the snores coming from the back seat, it was hard to keep my eyes open on the ride home.
the next day, the big question at work was what did everyone do on mother’s day? since the spring LEAF is always mother’s day weekend, i will likely have the same answer for a long time. i got to wallow in the joy of being a mother.
and my gift?
dirt. seriously, we got about eight cubic yards of topsoil delivered late last week. that’s a big pile of dirt. duck’s loving climbing the mountain, and i finally got to plant my garden. (sb, we both lucked out this year!)
strawberries are coming in. but somehow i seem to have lost my passion for them this year