You may be thinking, Where have you been, lady?
And I would tell you that I’ve been spending time with my kids. Though not entirely as you might think.
For one thing, I’ve been spending lots of time with H and Lulu in 1996. I’ve been taking this The Thirty-Minute Memoir course, and writing about our homeschooling beginnings. 1996 was the year that we gulped real hard and decided to do it. H was four that fall, and Lulu was almost one. I have to really conjure them at those ages, to write them into scenes. So I’m scouring journals, photographs, videos, H’s artwork, trying to recall who they were then.
Those were the days when H was a scratchy-voiced kid who looked a little like Dennis the Menace, with a knocked-out front tooth and an obsession for all things Busytown. At any time of day he might be Huckle Cat or Pickles the Pig or Able, Baker, Charlie, running around the house slinging “flour sacks,” or driving picklemobiles, or building houses, or whatever it was that busy clothed animals do.
Lulu was a baby with eyes so big that she sort of looked like Yoda, who loved purses and had figured out that whenever you hooked one on your arm, you should wave bye bye.
It’s surprising how much comes back when you have a few details, and you put your loved ones in a scene from long ago. I can see H at the library, clear as day, sprawled across a mountain of cushions with a Richard Scarry book, refusing to look for other books to check out. “I just want this one,” he’d say in his crunchy-sugar voice without looking up. I can see Lulu there too, sitting in her stroller, turning the pages of a book gingerly, searching for babies and poking each one she found with a dimpled finger and saying, “Beh beh.” Then she’d slam the book shut and fling it to the floor.
I didn’t remember any of that, until I put them in the library for a passage I was working on.
This explains, somewhat, why I haven’t been here. I’ve been writing my butt off for this class. It’s a boot camp of sorts. We have to submit at least 300 words each weekday (or three at the very minimum) and a more polished 1,000 on Fridays. If we don’t, we get no feedback from the instructor or fellow classmates that week.
It’s great. I’ve been writing more than ever before. Of course, what I’m writing is a hot mess, and I’m still peering through the steam to see if there’s a shape to what’s in there. But it’s satisfying to be writing so much, to be getting this memoir project off the ground, to be reliving those days with my kids.
I’ve also spent time with them in other ways, as you may have surmised from the photos. In October, Chris and I took an RV trip with Mr. T, the kid who wasn’t even a twinkle in 1996. We’ve always wanted to rent an RV, and the plan was to drive to southern Utah to see Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Escalante and Moab. The land of red rocks. And that’s what we did.
H delighted us by coming along. He flew out from New York and met us in Las Vegas. Vegas was just a stopover, but it was a hoot for a night. Did you know that Circus Circus has an RV park?
We fell hard for traveling by RV. We’re RV geeks now. We could sit out by the campfire, and then climb into our cozy beds, turning on the heat on for a few minutes and feeling like total cheaters! When it rained, we could play Farkle in our cozy dinette! We could make smoothies in the Vitamix (yes, I brought ours, dorkily) and wash dishes in a real, albeit tiny, sink! And when it was time to hit the road, we just made sure everything was strapped down and drove off, bathroom and all.
And the views in those parks! They don’t even look real. As we walked around Arches in Moab, I felt like we were looking at fake red rocks from the Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland. You can take a photo and have it look like a postcard without even trying.
I pretty much followed H around with my camera, to see what he was shooting so I could copy him. But, alas, he’s a professional and I am not. He doesn’t usually work with still cameras, but a camera is a camera. The kid knows his exposures and knows how to frame a shot, while I do a lot of guessing and hoping. I wish I could post some of his photos, but he hasn’t shared them with me yet.
It was a fabulous trip. The boys were hilarious, talking in German accents (because we rented our RV from a company that caters to Germans), wrestling like overgrown wolf pups, convincing me to buy them slingshots so they could shoot pebbles inappropriately. But I did miss my girl. We never planned for her to come; she’s in college and all. Still, when the conversations turned to whether it’s better to leave a knife in or pull it out when you’ve been stabbed, or whether or not you should suck the venom out when you’re bitten by a rattlesnake, I really would have liked to wander off with her.
My fall column for home/school/life was all about talking to my girl. Maybe you read it? She and I are all about the conversation. She turned 20 on Halloween–gasp, remember when she was thirteen?–and that morning her dad and I watched her open the presents we’d mailed via FaceTime. It was almost as good as having her here.
So that’s why I haven’t been here, folks. I’ve been hanging out with my kids. Among the red rocks, on FaceTime, and especially on the page. I’ll try not to take so long to come back.
Patricia, I love this post, love that you’ve been writing and writing and rediscovering memories you thought didn’t remember, love that you had such an amazing trip. I can’t wait to hear more about what you’re working on!
Thanks for the never-failing support, Kate! I’m hoping to go to the River Teeth conference again next year, and to have a few chapters of this memoir to submit. We’ll see how much I can get written!
On the road home from our annual fall retreat in Montana crammed in the truck with husband, 2 giant children and little pup… bliss. An RV would be a luxurious experience right about now but I wouldn’t trade this time with my babies for anything. Thanks for sharing your memories so eloquently!
Oh, Jennifer, I hope you had a fantastic time in Montana. I have to say, long road trips are easy in an RV–until you have to fill up the tank! Hope a school holiday comes on a Thursday sometime soon, and we get to see you at the park!
This is the most wonderful post, Patricia. I loved following your trip on IG.
The writing class sounds awesome! I could see pictures in my mind as you wrote about your memories.
Oh, and I would LOVE to see the shots H took too! 😉
So nice to hear from you, Dawn. Thanks for the kind words. H told me he’d try to get the photos on Flickr–if he does I’ll share the link! I think the trip photos are going on the back burner for now though–he’s off to Paris on Monday for a shoot. Woo hoo!
Just a few random comments:
I’m glad you all had a great trip, making new memories in your RV. It looks incredible from your pics.
I’ve always admired your memory. I think you have the best memory, even though you looked at old journals and movies. -Great you had that available.
The way you described L as a child was perfect. I can totally picture her doing what you wrote when she was little..
I’m glad your new writing deadlines are working for you and pushing you–in a positive direction.
Aw, thanks for all the encouragement, Kristin, as always. We’re each other’s cheerleaders for our creative projects. Homeschooling mamas homeschooling themselves! HMHT! Haha!
Hello, I live in Kelowna, Canada and homeschool my 3 kids, aged 12, 10 and 9. We are planning a trip to Moab this February/March and I am looking for ideas/activities/camps my kids can do on their own. We plan to bike ride with them most days but it would be nice to go on a few rides on our own. Do you have some ideas for me? Thanks!
Hi Annie! I’m sorry; I don’t have any ideas for that sort of thing. My kids are older, and we were only in Moab briefly. One idea I do recommend is getting this app to use while touring Arches. http://gypsyguide.com/destinations/moab/ You get an audio tour of the park, and it uses GPS to update to precisely where you’re driving. We liked it a lot. (There’s one for Canyonlands too, but we didn’t have time for that.) It’s such stunning country–I hope you have a wonderful trip!
My husband and I would love to do a trip like that with the kids one day! (Or without them, frankly.)
I missed this comment, Nina! Yes, you should, with or without kids. My husband and I dream of having a little Airstream or something like it one day, and traveling all around, just the two of us.
Oh my! My own little Dennis the Menace is four, and his little sister is one. I am struggling right now with how we will go forward with their education, though I am confident that we will be always a learning-loving family no matter what. Reading this post feels like looking at my very own life (Busytown, purses and all) through a lens with a 20-year aperture!
Aw, Francie. It’s so good to hear from someone who is coming from the place where I was back then. I was struggling to figure out what we should do that fall; it took time to figure it out. I’m sure you will too. Keep loving learning with your kids–that will take you to interesting places no matter which route you take!
I enjoyed a similar trip with my oldest oh so many years ago and hope to bring the younger two there someday — we had gone without kids before all were born and what memories…
Wishing you the happiest of holidays with your family this winter season. And a joyful New Year.
I hope you make that trip some day, CathyT!
Happy holidays and new year to you too!