The other night we pulled into a hotel parking lot across the river from Washington D.C. Chris ran inside to check us in, while the kids and I stretched and squirmed in the backseat.
“Mommy, where is home?” Will asked.
Every year for the past four years we have sworn we will never do this again, we will never couch surf in our parents’ homes for a month again, we will never spend our hard-earned ticket home and days of vacation time trying to get to tiny little airports in tiny little towns that we left long ago for good reasons. We tell ourselves that next year, surely next year, we will rent a cabin out in Montana where the kids will have their own beds and their own space to play where we won’t have to worry about breaking anything except our own toys. Where we won’t disrupt anyone’s routines except our own, where the only house rules are the ones that our kids already know.
And then I sit here, trying to sum up how we’ve spent our last few weeks of this trip and I realize it has been beautiful. Even now, I don’t remember the tantrums over what to eat for dinner, but I do remember the night we had a carrot-crunching competition and the way Will glowed, really glowed, as he looked around the table at all of us egging him on. I remember Will’s frugal Papa oohing and ahhing over new dresses for Shiloh as if they were the most solid financial investment in the world and the way he proclaimed her the happiest, sweetest, most beautiful baby in the world at least three times a day.
I’ll remember my Dad taking Will to the city compost pile three times a day because Will loved loading and unloading our compost bins so much and the way Shiloh bounced happily on his knee while we sat feeding Will french fries at Five Guys. I’ll remember my mother standing up stiffly but beaming after spending hours on the floor of the garage playing with toy firetrucks in my old dollhouse and the way she still talks about the drooly hugs Shiloh gave her.
I have a roll of film waiting to be developed that must be half-full of shots of Shiloh sleeping in her Nai Nai’s arms. I hope the pictures turn out as beautiful as those moments were for me to watch. Shiloh now merely tolerates me putting her to bed, she’d rather have her NaiNai.
I’ll remember the morning we took Will out for pancakes in his pjs and that other morning we all went out for spudnuts in Charlottesville and that time on the 4th of July when we bought a croissant for Will from the exact same man who sold us 3 dozen for our wedding in Mt Pleasant five years ago on the 4th of July. My favorite moment of our summer thus far came when we took Will out for a quick hike to a favorite Charlottesville area swimming hole. Watching our naturally cautious little boy gleefully march his way across a river crossing and laugh hysterically as he fell over and over on the mossy rocks made me wish I could bring him into the woods to play every single day.
I’ve loved watching my aunts swoop Will across every intersection in Georgetown and marveling at how expertly my big-city-dwelling, no-kids-thank-you-very-much sister guided Will’s shoes onto his tiny feet and the way Shiloh fell for her the first time Devin ever held her.
This summer has been trying and difficult but oh so rich and full of love. In a few months I won’t remember the hard parts, just the soul-satisfying, messy goodness of so many people I love in such close proximity to one another.
I can’t wait to get to Milan. To unpack our suitcases, to have an address again. I can’t wait to find somewhere to develop the rolls of black and white film I’ve been carrying around for the last few weeks. I can not/not wait to get the kids settled and back into some semblance of a routine (naps! sleeping through the night! these are good things!). Spending so much quality time with family has led to all sorts of new revelations and new realizations that I’m still trying to put precisely into words. But for now it’s enough to look at these photos and look forward to my rolls of film and be grateful that we have such an amazing family to spend the summer with.