September is the month of Dan bow-hunting, which is so traditional it seems to be encoded into our DNA.
The familiarity of slipping skins off green chiles, or salting cucumbers into pickles while the house is bright and loud with children is reassuringly predictable. The September weather is endlessly perfect regardless of sun or rain; and even in the middle of whatever sibling nano-crisis is occurring, we feel rich with the blessings of this season.
A decade of similar September memories are lodged in my cells, released under the precise conditions of temporarily fatherless children looking for a wrestling partner plus backyard plums softening up. Although these days, solo-parenting is less about swooping around with a rag in hand (ready to wipe bottoms, faces, chins, floor) and more about intercepting these increasingly independent children on their way out the door.
Without another parent on which to deflect responsibility (maybe Dan will make dinner, I think lazily from behind a novel), I step up into a super-maternal version of myself, the exact version the kids likely fantasize about. We become this small, rag-tag team, this three-person pod hell-bent on adventure (which includes but is not limited to the annual Bayfield zucchini cook-off).
I become so available! The kids lap it up! I feel so fulfilled! It seems so simple, really. My children could give you a detailed list of their greatest desires (which despite the semi-regular luck of elk meat, includes sliced turkey), and yet it is clear that what they truly want most is simply time with their parents. Col would like me to listen to his deepest thoughts about “Star Wars,” and Rose loves for a mother-daughter trampoline session to last until we’re giggly and light-headed. And of course, this connection, this time is what we want, too, even if we’re tired and overwhelmed and distracted by a million things every day.
Instead of playing highly competitive, weekend-long Scrabble games with Dan, the kids and I break out the same 700-piece puzzle that vexes us every hunting season (still vexing). I consent to my annual game of Monopoly, bored to tears, yet filled with the joy of being a mother who will play Monopoly with her kids. We bike to the farmers market, play board games with gracious grandmas at the Unitarian Church on Friday night and lounge around the house utterly plan-less, choreographing the day in real time.
Once a week we conduct movie night, in which everyone piles in my bed and we eat fistfuls of crunchy, salty things straight from the bag. For the kids, who have no knowledge of American teenaged spring breaks, this is the greatest hedonism they can imagine.
Of course, we want Dan to get home soon with a nice elk to butcher, but when we get various texts from various remote locations letting us know it’ll be a few more days, we miss him dearly and celebrate one more movie night in our future.
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