Maria and Benjamin love to torment each other.
He sleeps in her bed and attacks her stuffed chick; he chases whatever she is dragging behind her.
She hugs him in a fashion reminiscent of a sumo wrestler. She plays shepherdess and herds him around the house, knocking him from his perch, removing him from his curled up naps.
If he is happily dozing in a spot she wants to occupy, she casually and firmly shoves him out of her way and as he stumbles away dazed and indignant, she says, “There you go,“ in a kind and graceful tone.
She loves to admonish him for minor kitty crimes, like sitting too close in front of the TV or peering over the dining table from her booster seat. She raises her voice, sternly wagging her finger, saying, “Ben-bee ‘top it.”
They both make messes, they both seek attention, they both want to get outside and explore in the yard, and they are both very cute.
And when Maria is enjoying her bath, splashing and swimming, Benjamin watches her. He hangs over the sides of the tub and paws at the water. He’s fallen in twice.
Maria likes it when Benjamin comes in to the bathroom. She points and lets her face turn a little and says, “Oh, cute-cute Ben-bee. Cute-cute.”
Would you believe we are camping this weekend, as in "starting tomorrow?" You see unfortunately I fell for a rumor that started a few months back that a certain game would be done by the end of February. I was not totally naïve: I reserved our campsite for ten days after the deadline, allowing for slips and slides. So, still in the recovery phase of our colds and congestion and with a house that could be condemned for neglect and abuse, I am supposedly going to retrieve our own true home, the RV, load it, fuel it and drive up to the school tomorrow afternoon and take four very eager children camping. They are giggly with anticipation. They want campfires, weenie roasts, sleeping bags under shady oak trees and butterfly nets on long hikes. They want to read The Hobbit by flashlight.
Me too. I love oak trees and acorns and ponds with tadpoles and cattails. I want to sit around a campfire and let the night and smoke ease my senses, and relax the grip that the city and suburban responsibilities keep on my imagination. I could go farther away, but I couldn’t be any further away than when I am in that old county park and doing the same easy things I did as a girl, like looking for lilacs, following trails and making paths. Being there is a way of coming home. Since I have no family home, no physical place that has been a constant in my life, I am especially taken with the places I went with my mom and my brothers, the places where we played and explored and made our own.
Geoff has to work, and he might only be able to join us for a Saturday hike and dinner. The house really is a mess. If I stay home we won’t see Geoff any more than if we went away. And if we stay home, the house is as likely to get messier than really clean. I’ll probably wear myself out just gathering supplies and buying the groceries, but when we get there… the scrub jays will be acting like it’s spring time already and there may be early lilacs, faint blue and sweet. We can look for tadpoles and maybe there will be water in the creek. I’ll tell the boys about the little bluegills my brothers and I used to fish for, but refused to eat. I’ll tell them all the old stories that come to mind when we are enjoying the evening fire, and they’ll start telling me stories too. It could be worth it, just to hear their stories.