The next three days are rainy: and by this I mean a soft but relentless moisture as if the pewter clouds have lowered to earth and spread themselves at various densities across the land. The sound of water trickling in all its forms takes on the quality of a timpani orchestra: the patter of it on the roof, the slosh of the high tide against the pilings of the deck, the rumbling gush of the new waterfall filling the gash of the mud slide site.
Mike and Caleb continue their steelhead and salmon quest inland, tracking the progress of the fish upriver as we girls settle into quiet. The internet is intermittent and there’s no phone reception at all, so we occupy ourselves indoors with pastimes never attempted during our busy normal lives: a giant jigsaw puzzle (ironically, an image of a Hawaii reef) baking chocolate chip cookies and an elaborate huckleberry and wild blueberry pie with a latticework top and golden, embellished cutouts (Tawny really is an artist in the baking area) and coloring fancy mandalas in an adult coloring book.
When not doing these things, we sit on the deck and watch the vast shift of the river, rising and falling more than twenty-five feet every six hours in a complicated tidal dance. Or, we take long walks along the deserted forest road with the dogs, and talk about everything and nothing, in the way of such things with grown children.
Mike and Caleb return triumphant on the third day away having collectively caught and released six salmon and a bagful of smaller trout. We eat the trout at a celebratory dinner along with a stew of the shrimp I bought for bait, cooked up with tomatoes and bell peppers from the tiny greenhouse, and finished off with the amazing pie, reheated in the oven and crowned with whipped cream.
There isn’t much to say about the mundane but profound moments shared in this stretch of time. Every day I get to physically touch my children. I hug them, and rub their shoulders and necks; comb and French braid my daughter’s long brown hair, thick and silky as a fistful of embroidery floss; and massage my son’s head the way he’s always loved since he was a little boy, just using the tips of my fingers, until he melts boneless on the couch and all tension is gone.
The little rituals of being together: the teasing about my mediocre cooking, the bickering about who threw out the half cup of coffee that wasn’t finished, the hassle over who gets to try to boot up the internet next, the muddy row of boots outside the door—these are the worn, familiar, beloved grooves of years’ making, and more precious for it now that others occupy their hearts and lives, and we prepare to our expand our tent pegs further to accommodate those new loves in the days to come.
I’m so grateful for the brace of days we get with our children, but I’m greedy too, and it’s never enough. Even on the first day they arrive, I cry secret tears for that last day when I have to say goodbye again.