The other day we had one of our neighbors over for dinner. He and Willy engaged in a conversation about watches, prompting me to do an exaggerated eye roll. He scoffed, pointed to my wedding ring – a ring Willy’s friend made with Willy’s mom’s diamond – and tried making the comparison that I, too, desire nice things. Willy gave him a quick glance, motioned to cut it, and explained that material things are of little importance to me.
It got me thinking about what I do value. Not that I hadn’t evaluated such prior to now, but in that moment I couldn’t think of what my equivalent to his Rolex would be. I thought about the things I own and the price tags attached and all I could come up with was camera equipment, which truthfully speaking is an avenue of income and therefore doesn’t really count.
And then I thought about what I asked for for my birthday because surely birthdays are special and gifts for such are typically heartfelt. I asked for a trip; nothing fancy, just a weekend away with all of us together. And on my birthday I unwrapped a little box that contained a folded up piece of paper with a picture of a renovated barn on it.
Experiences, memories, and even the hard, trying times that come with traveling with littles are what make my heart pitter patter. And so, over summer (man I’m reminded of how behind I am on sharing stuff here), in celebration of my birthday, we loaded up the van and headed up to Springville, at the base of the Sequoias, with no plans in particular because, well, itineraries – and the people who make them – scare me.
We stopped at Walmart once we got into town, stocking up on breakfast items, a few snacks, and some fishing rods for the boys. Fishing rods we’d grow to detest in due time. I met Willy and the boys in the store after having fed Sonny in the car and upon walking into the ginormous store, I heard Willy screaming for Van. A few seconds after that I heard the announcement that a blond boy, in a black shirt, was lost and to keep an eye out. There is no feeling that can adequately describe the feeling of potentially having lost your child or, worse yet, having your child taken from you. I made a dash for the exit and frantically scoured the parking lot. I came back into the store, heard “code Adam canceled”, and found the boys; my heart trying hard to settle back to it’s ordinary position in my chest.
Down a dirt road, past a field of cows, we came up on the barn; the outside adorned with cobwebs and scorpions, the inside eclectic and kitchy.
We ate that night at a roadside dive bar; the kind of place you have to poke your head in and ask if kids are even allowed and when they tell you they are you’re directed to a table, the only table, in the corner of the bar. A bar filled only with locals. A bar we entered knowing no one and left knowing everyone, thanks really and truly to Willy, who is always the social butterfly of our clan. Not to mention the parting gifts we received, including fresh grapes from someones local vineyard and a tip on the trees the neighboring llamas enjoy most. We fed the llamas before heading down to the lake, the sun setting just behind the mountain as we got there.
We returned to the lake the next day, the 110 degree weather causing us to want to turn around nearly as soon as we got there. We settled in anyway, a few cold beers and some good tunes allowing us to sink our feet into the mud and forget, momentarily anyway, about how miserable triple digit weather can be. Unphased by the weather or the muggy water, the boys broke out their fishing poles, played with the worms, and practiced their casting. A thousand tangled lines and hundreds of lost bait later had us questioning Walmart’s return policies. And truthfully I thought it was all fun and games until Hooper came running up from the shoreline, a small fish dangling from the end of his line. Pride beaming from every orafice of his being and jaw dropping bewilderment on the faces of Willy and I. And tears, oh the jealous tears, streaming from Van’s eyes. Willy has the best picture on his phone of Hooper holding his treasured fish and Van, in the background, crying a cry that would lead one to believe a shark bit his hand off. Classic moments in brotherhood.
We returned to the lake later in the evening; the boys with a new found excitement about fishing and a new found determination to catch another. Chasing the dragon, if you will. Which, as life would have it, didn’t work out a second time. But there were frogs and they proved to be a welcomed distraction.
The following day we had intentions of making the short drive up the mountain and into the Sequoias as, truthfully, being amongst the trees is more what I had envisioned when we initially planned our trip. The road up the mountain, however, looked more like the way a drunk man would draw a straight line if blindfolded and using his non-dominant hand. Point being, it was a super winding road and given Hooper’s history with yacking – the latest culprit being the mere turnabouts in downtown Tijuana – we opted to skip the trees and head for another body of water instead.
We’re not the best planners and by the time we got out the door the following morning, it was verging on nap time, aka our-saving-grace, and so leaving when we did truly was a gamble. There were more tangled lines, this time accompanied with more tears and whining from Van (who needs a nap like a banker needs money). Not even a small catfish found on the end of his line, that Willy caught in an attempt to level the I-caught-my-first-fish playing field (and much to my dismay because hey, you win some and you lose some / life lessons) could brighten his day. We hung on for as long as we could before packing up and keeping our fingers crossed that we’d make it back in time to at least get an hour of downtime. And we did. Actually I found Hooper (who thankfully agreed to a nap despite it not being a part of his regular routine these days) curled up in the pack-n-play we brought for Sonny. Oh my mama heart…
That evening we returned to the same bar we had fell in love with prior; the food nothing to write home about but the faces familiar, the welcome warm, the beer cold, and the tunes spot on. We got to talking to two young cowboys and the boys were all kinds of impressed to see the videos of them riding bulls. Hooper requested a picture with them and of course I obliged. We hung with the locals, mostly transplants from other areas of California, while the boys flung the pool balls about and attempted to befriend the llamas out back.
We left in the morning. Our last adventure before the dreaded, though not-so-dreaded, start of school. But more dreaded than not dreaded because summer has our hearts.