It’s been almost a month. Our older son and his family arrived on July 23 for 3 weeks. Our daughter, her partner, and his two children came for nearly two weeks, overlapping Forrest and then Brendan and his family , who arrived 10 days ago and who will leave on Monday. Sometimes there were 6 of us, sometimes 10. Almost every meal was eaten on the deck, under the vines. We had black cod and prawns, swimming scallops, pasta with pesto from the basil I grow against a warm wall, eggplants from my greenhouse, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. We had an Indian meal in honour of Angelica’s partner Karna (saag paneer, pakoras), prime rib because it seems to be our traditional celebratory meal, pizza because same, blueberry pancakes, chocolate cake, peach and blackberry pie, homemade ice-cream (maple, peach/ginger, vanilla, chocolate). We had lots of wine, good (Desert Hills 2014 Syrah with beef) and not so good. We had cider from Brickers, the cider mill in west Sechelt, and beer from various craft breweries. A couple of nights there were nightcaps of smoky single malt. Aperol spritzes. Empress gin and rose petal syrup. Some days it was too hot to do anything but swim and eat ice-cream. Ocean swims in Trail Bay and at Francis Point. Lake swims in our beloved Ruby Lake. Visits to the bookstore to redeem the gift certificates.
There were stories. Uncles and fathers and brothers and sisters.
There were tattoos.
There were arrivals and leavetakings and trips to Egmont where the chainsaw exhibit in the museum was much admired and to the playground at Madeira Park in the shadow of the elementary school where Forrest, Brendan, and Angelica all attended. One grandchild wondered which room was the one haunted by the ghost of Nelly. Another wondered if his dad had been a good basketball player only at his school or if he would have been considered good at any school. Questions, questions.
In the house right now there are 4 of us. Brendan and Cristen are having a few days away without children (Forrest and Manon enjoyed the same break during their visit) and last night I came downstairs because I heard a child crying, being guided to me by his sister. “I was afraid,” he said. I tucked him back into bed and then tidied his sister’s blankets before tucking her in too. Suddenly she said, “It’s such a winding highway. I never get carsick but now I’m carsick.” And I realized that she was not quite awake, was dreaming of the road to our house, or the road away. It’s almost the end of the family visit.
This morning John came in and said to the two children and me, “Get ready for a little mystery trip,” and we gathered our stuff together. First we found some worms in the compost box. Then he took us down to Ruby Lake and snapped the kids into life-jackets. One of them carried a tackle-box and one of them carried the worms. In the grey light, I sat on a log and watched them fish.
Two more nights. There’s a pile of laundry that almost reaches the ceiling and every toy in the house is strewn between the kitchen and the back bedrooms. Books are everywhere. Looking out my study window I see the remnants of the party the children planned for Karna, an unexpected birthday surprise, with balloons, games set up on the mossy field, confetti of dandelion seeds, and the promise of hazelnut cake decorated by a quartet of small hands. At one point, I looked around at the shoes by the front door, flung every whichway, the drawings abandoned on the floor, the Lego creations balanced on the edge of the kitchen counter, and I must have sighed because John said to me quietly, “This is what we built our house for.”
And it was.