At the end of every summer, for so many summers now, my family has held a mini reunion up in the mountains of northern California. In the shadow of Mt. Shasta, on the banks of an icy river that snakes through a teeny tiny mountain town, my father and my brother and I have gathered in the same little farmhouse for a weekend of relaxation and family fun. This was our seventh year.
Seven years I’ve made this pilgrimage. The first year, driving down from Portland, I was newly pregnant with Waits, and my sister in law was very, very pregnant with her own little boy. Waits and his cousin Sean were born 6 months apart, to the day.
Those first few years I drove down from the north, from Portland. Sometimes Damian joined me, and some years he couldn’t. The last time he did was during that year I quit blogging. The summer before we separated.
After we moved back down to Santa Barbara, we would fly up from the south — my dad and Waits and I. We did that for a couple of years. And then, of course, Jeremy began joining us. His first year at the farm house was during our epic 3-week camping road trip adventure. There were 3 wildfires burning in Shasta that year, surrounding us.
There is something so special to me about this annual journey. Returning. Reconnecting. It marks time and it highlights change and it also keeps us grounded. It feels important.
Seasons. Transitions. Cycles.
Same creaky steel-bottom boat. Same stained wooden floors. Same looming, immovable mountain watching over our changing family. Changing faces. Growing children and greying hair. Everything is different, and also everything is the same.
This year we decided to save money and drive. And since the trip is roughly 10 hours, we decided to break it up into two stints.
So we left Santa Barbara in the evening, around 5. The car was packed with suitcases and snacks, crafts and books and games and gadgets. Immediately, we were off to a good start. We stopped for dinner after a few hours, and were back on the road by 8 pm. The plan was to let Waits drift off in the car, and then keep driving until after midnight, so we could cover a lot of ground while he was blissfully unaware.
And it worked. The moon was unimaginably huge that night, full and blood red, hanging in the sky above the empty endless swath of scrub brush that stands between the 101 and the i5 in central California. It was pitch black outside the car, and I put on an audiobook of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Waits curled up in the back seat, wrapped in his velvet Gryffindor robe, clutching his magic wand, and slipped off into dream land.
And thus, we were back on the road bright and early. Paper crafts kept us entertained. Specifically, Minecraft free printable 3-D paper crafts.
Seriously, to my fellow parents of small children: free printable paper crafts OH MY GOD. It’s like free toys, kids love them just as much as “real” toys, and putting them together is a great way to pass the time (and also build art/construction skills). Seriously. Check them out.
The next day I woke up early for a quiet breakfast alone by the river.
And honestly, the rest of the trip was just family, and nature, and more nature, and more family, and it was perfect. A perfect late summer getaway.
It was just about as good as I could have hoped for, and I can’t wait to do it all over again. Next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Maybe someday Waits will bring his own babies there, and I’ll be the old granny, winking at that mountain, watching as everything changes . . . and also everything stays the same.