To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 1 month old.
It’s Mother’s Day. Dad reminds you of this when you walk into our bedroom. (“And what do we do on Mother’s Day?” “We’re nice to Mom.”) What you need NO reminder of is this: we’re going to the ranch! After 8 weeks of lockdown, we’ve decided that 6 hours of driving is a reasonable price to pay for 6 hours of running around, with 6 feet of distance between household members. Pandemic math.
Getting ready is not all sunshine and roses, but we manage to accomplish the essentials and get on the road by 7:30. You and Paul munch happily through your breakfasts while we cruise north on the emptiest 1-35 we’ve ever seen. You enter an imaginary world, and Dad and I smile at each other to hear the louder snippets of your story. “…the GREATEST QUEEN in the WORLD!” When your storyline concludes, you request a Circle Round podcast episode, and estimate it will take us 7 stories to reach the ranch. I am impressed—at 20 minutes each, I think you are exactly right. (You later revise your estimate to 19, but maybe just because you love them.)
We arrive 3 hours later and tumble out of the car, so excited yet flustered that we forget about Sous. I find her in the backseat a few minutes later. When we would have hugged your grandparents, we instead offer awkward greetings from a distance, pitching our voices to carry. It gets better after that.
You inspect the oak tree that’s toppled over, assessing it for climbability and fort-building capacities. We decide it definitely must stay. Reminded of the blackberry bush, you decide it’s time to pick some, and you and Paul race over, one piloting Little Kermit, child-sized jeep, and one on foot. Then some quality sand-pit time. Checking all the boxes.
You hop in the hot tub for a major swim, diving for sticks under water while the adults sit around you, providing all the attention you wish. Gamma and Gobka arrive—more beloved grandparents from whom to keep our distance.
You visit the bathroom and begin waging your campaign to hang out inside. (“I just need to cool off inside.” “I’m so tired: I need to nap on the bunk bed.”) We feed you fried chicken and macaroni and cheese for lunch, on a sheet under the tree. It couldn’t be more beautiful.
You do more kid-cart driving, and swing in the hammock. We visit the blackberries again, and eat cobbler. Granddad and Susu feed the cows. The afternoon melts away. We eat another dessert, chocolate cake for your belated birthday. It’s somehow time to go.
We get loaded up without tears, and wave goodbye to our family. Time to drive again. You get one more Circle Round story before Dad declares a moratorium. Paul has fallen asleep, and you certainly would if we would just stop reminding you not to suck your thumb. You try to hide it from us behind a doll, and your hair. I talk to you to distract you, and give you things to put in your mouth instead. Sunglasses. A chard stem. Sheets of dried seaweed. When we reach Waco, we declare moral victory and let you play on your tablet for the rest of the trip home.
It’s 7 when we arrive, and you are tired. It’s a cup of yogurt for dinner, and off to get clean. You take a shower in our bathroom (by yourself, “like a grown-up”), and clean yourself adequately. I help you into pajamas, paint your thumbnails with our revolting quit-sucking polish, and read a chapter of the Elsa and Anna book June mailed you for your birthday. Dad tells a bedtime story, and I field a few post-bedtime questions and requests from Paul (who slept for 2 hours in the car). You are tired, though, and laying down everytime I open the door. By 8:15, it’s all quiet. Goodnight, sweetie. You’ve come a long way.