This year, the kids understand that Dan is out hunting, though whenever anyone asks us how long Dan will be gone, Col looks thoughtful, like he’s doing a little quadratic calculation on the fly, and says “oh, about twenty-teen days.”
Indeed. The nights Dan has spent away through archery season and now rifle season have morphed into some twisty, fun house mirror caricature of itself, or maybe that’s just me and the caffeine.
One thing I enjoy about Dan’s ritual absence, besides the potential for 400 or so pounds of lip-smacking meat, is that, in a place that lies somewhere between Dante’s Inferno and Candyland, the kids and I are stuck together. Without Dan around for us to compete over, I can give more attention to the children, and it turns out they really like that.
We become kind of like college dorm mates. Remember that? How your dorm mate would talk way too much about her poodle back home, and how all those cannabis seeds you spilled on the carpet drove her crazy, but being stuck together was sort of an endearing adventure? That’s just how it is. The kids may be sick of all my heavy sighing, and I of all the stooping and wiping, but at the end of the day there we are in a snuggly pile on the couch reading books, belonging to each other.
Hunting season, because of its annual regularity, creates a template for memories I can extract like a Word document in my own yellowing brain-files.
I can remember each stint of autumn solo-mothering as if flipping through a photo album. When Dan went out for week when Col was 7 months old, I thought I was Mom of the Year for caring for a little morsel of a human who napped four times a day and was beside himself with the comedic value of ripping up newspapers. Fast forward two years, and I have a new 7-month-old baby (who’s still peeved about being evicted from her convenience store of a womb) and a 2-year-old who needs to be run daily like a dog so he doesn’t gnaw the furniture.
But this year has been altogether decent. While I’ve been busy wiping spills and retrieving the missing toothpaste from Rose’s clothes drawer, the kids have been sizing each
other up as playmates. Rose is no longer the baby who tries to catch a nap in the backpack while Col insists we go to the train station three times a day to revel in the earsplitting train whistle. No longer am I creating a human baby gate with my body, trying to block Rose from ingesting Col’s puzzles and train sets.
This hunting season’s big news is: The kids play together while I read the paper (or remain close at hand for soothing whichever kid gets walloped by the other).
But between wallops and
meltdowns, dorm life with semi-continent little people is sweet – it really is.
Rachel Turiel is dreaming
of elk roasts. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.