I was very negligent during our vacation in Vermont. I spread sunscreen on our children but once or twice over the course of a week spent mostly outside in blessedly cool mountain air and bright yellow sunshine. So now they are brown. Is it so very wrong if I delight in their summer bodies? If I inhale deeply and tell them they are like brown butter when we are snuggled close? (This was after a bath, on our way home...believe me, I caught occasional whiffs that were not quite so delicious emanating from my dear ones earlier in the week).
Vermont was idyllic; time out of time spent with beautiful and inspiring people. It could never have happened if not for the big-hearted Presler family, who welcomed us on their land and made things like preparing dinner for 15 people with nothing but a camping stove, a couple of coolers and a few dishes seem effortless, even pleasurable. We sat down together at picnic tables festooned with wildflowers in beer bottles and sang grace; we managed to wash up and put children to bed before it was too dark to see. I often find the task of preparing dinner and getting everyone in my family to sit down at the same time a challenge; how was it that it came together so happily in Vermont? I am convinced it was the influence of the Presler family and their hallowed camping traditions.
Besides the quart of maple syrup from the pristine and breathtakingly beautiful Raven Ridge farm, I have brought home many simple, sweet things. The parenting solidarity was abundant. I feel restored and renewed in my efforts; the burdens of life with young children are considerable, yes, and yet so are the joys. Oh, the tantrums that shattered the quiet and shook the green mountains! Talk about breathtaking. But the moments of singing, dancing, storytelling, and the visions of naked little skinnies in the cold, cold water...! (I am reminded of little Sky, who had just peed in her underwear. Her father helped her to step out of the wet pair and off she ran into the meadow, wearing a polka dotted shirt and nothing else, looking behind at us, her admirers, and declaring: Now we're camping!).
It was a gift to be surrounded by that peaceful green beauty with such dear people; people who reflect my values back to me, a little bit brighter. Being together in Vermont reminded me of who I am; what I want and what I hope for. These friends gave my children to me, seen afresh through their eyes. They lent me their patience and love, helping me remember what I need to create space and time for in my everyday life in order to keep that calm center within reach.
This is what friendship means, I think. Our friends help us to remember ourselves; they call forth what is most true in us. And so friends who are also parents, who beckon to the mother I want to be and who invite me to share that person with their own children...how could I do this without them? This gets to why I'm hooked on writing this little blog. Parenting can be so hard, but in the company of friends (like all of you, dear readers) the frustrating moments easily turn a sharp corner into absurd hilarity and the loving moments blossom. How I treasure life in the village.
Singing and dancing along to Mike Hsu's original composition, "Hello Goodbye Meaniehead."
Frances following minnows in the river at my favorite swimming spot. I discovered/remembered how clear, cold river and pond swimming can cure any ill I may be suffering from, whether it be internal or external. I became a bit of a water junkie.
Mike weighing the pleasure of taking off those jeans and getting in with the first painful shock of cold water.
Making faces with little Maya, the world's most peaceful and adorable baby, outside the house we rented together for a few days.
Sky and Frances kissing a two day old chick at Raven Ridge farm.
Heading off to see the sunflowers at the farm.
Of course there were blueberries...
Larissa adds up our bill. See the jar of maple syrup? It is proudly displayed on my pantry shelf now!
Cows, enjoying their view.
Dinner, featuring Asa, who is modeling the elephant print shirt he made.
And this was the scene the day before, painting shirts with stencils and guidance lovingly provided by Clara and Andrew.
Clara and Asa.
The toddler crew: Sky, Gabriel, and Priya.
Frances wearing Mike's old Phillies cap, Asa wearing Yoshi's mesh cap.
Frances basking in the attention of many children as she reads "What Do People Do All Day?"