July 10th

July 10th.

We have had two long days of travel, nine hours each. Yesterday Greg and I awoke to a dark, steamy morning just a few minutes before 4 AM. In preparation for our house sitter, who will stay in our home for the seven weeks we are away, we had cleaned everything up to a sparkling shine. Every surface was cleared of clutter, every picture straight on the wall, everything gleamed. The bedroom almost echoed with the pine floors devoid of everything-- no laundry baskets, no items of clothing tossed aside the night before. Everything was ready to go. As we crept outside in the pre-dawn, the yard was perfectly manicured. It looked like a park. I felt almost sorry to be leaving, everything looked so perfect. The river rushed quietly down the hill as we put the last few things-- our hot coffee and refrigerated lunch items-- into the car.
It was just after four when we fetched the sleeping children and transferred them to their car seats. Our children do not sleep in the car. They never have, and I imagine they never will. But leaving at 4 AM guarantees us at least two hours of absolute peace and quiet as we drive. So as we negotiated the quiet back roads and wove along the Massachusetts Turnpike through the Berkshires, all was quiet. 
Not an eye closed, and when the sun crept over the horizon at five-thirty the Froot Loop necklaces were out, books were being read, and the first round of coffee was finished. I love leaving so early in the morning. We passed the halfway mark of our travel (mile-wise) at 8:20 AM. With a revolving door of audio books, movies, novelty snacks, puzzles, and crayons we managed to make it through the 9 hours that it took us from door to door without much of a whine out of anybody. We stopped twice for short breaks and arrived a little after one o’clock at DeGrassi Point feeling ready for anything. 
The arrival at our ancestral land wiped out those nine minutes in the blink of an eyelash. We were staying at my cousin’s house, so at first the arrival confused Fiona: where were we? Where was the DeGrassi she remembered? I took her out to the end of Barb’s dock and there it was, just along the cove: the green and white boathouse, sandy beach, big dock, and landmark yellow and green slide in the water. Fiona looked up at me, her eyes glowing with joy. “There it is!” she squealed. “It’s the baby beach! I want to go there! I want to go swimming!”
The timing was impeccable. My cousin Caley was just about to put her 11 month old son, Lachlan, to bed, so clearing out the house seemed just the thing to do. As the kids scrambled down the dirt road in the direction of the commons, I grabbed the suits out of the car and brought up the rear with the little girls. 
Coming around the bend in the little path that connects the cove with the commons I felt the weight of a busy school year lift off my shoulders: there is was. The most familiar little dirt track in the world to me, the sagging shed-garage and green and white wood siding of the cottage my great-grandfather built in 1912. Even though we wouldn’t be staying the night in this “home”, the sight alone of it, and being able to walk past its deep gables and in the shade of the pines that grace its front lawn brought me a year’s worth of peace. The children had run ahead and were joyfully playing on the metal “swingset” that my cousins brought home from living abroad in Papua New Guinea in the early ’70’s. Only one swing remains but the ladder across the top is sturdy and fun, and it remains a focal point of play for all the children of the commons. Upon seeing me they jumped down and headed for the water. 
We spent the afternoon doing what we always do at DeGrassi: kids playing in the sand and water, adults playing alongside, swimming, assisting, and catching up on the dock. As always, it’s as if we’ve always been there and never left. We couldn’t have picked a better place to burn off steam and erase the travel than spending the afternoon there.
We returned to Auntie Barb’s cottage for a two-tiered spaghetti dinner, with the kids eating first and then swimming and playing some more before heading down for a six-kid big cousin sleepover in the basement. Fiona and Maeve were exhausted and managed to fall asleep in the same room for the first time ever without much intervention. Our supper happened after everyone was tucked in, the adults chatting and laughing with cozy candlelight on the porch, lulled by the lapping of the waves on the beach and seawall. 
The next morning we feasted on home made waffles and headed for the airport at just past 9. My dear cousin Briare, who is my age and has been among my closest friends for my whole life, had offered to keep our car at her house and give us transportation to the airport. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to check in, take care of our bags, manage to rearrange our seats so that we would be together on the plane (in two sets of three), and grab some lunch. We boarded the plane and got settled for the 4 hour and 12 minute flight to Edmonton.
Bless my heart, I volunteered to take Maeve in my row for the flight. She was mostly fine. We had her in her car seat on the plane, as it’s been our experience that it’s easier for small children to understand the concept of remaining buckled in one’s seat if they are in a seat they are used to for travel. The down side of this travel arrangement is that their feet are lifted about 18 inches closer to the seat in front of them, which means lots of reprimands not to kick the nice lady sitting in front of us. But we managed to power through, with lots of snacks, stories, and even a (nurse assisted) nap on Mama’s lap. It seemed cruel to me when, moments after Maeve fell asleep, we hit turbulence and the seat belt sign came on. I could see the flight attendant coming through the cabin to check to see if everyone’s belt was fastened. Miraculously, I was able to set Maeve in her car seat and buckle her in with plenty of time to spare. She stayed asleep for almost half an hour-- a welcome break for me. 
We arrived in Edmonton at close to 3 o’clock local time. Greg’s parents were there to greet us and helped us get situated in a rental car that we will use for the duration of our time here. Back at Greg’s grandmother’s house the girls were delighted to find a bag of My Little Ponies that Greg’s mom had bought at a tag sale that morning. The three of them were sucked into dramatic play while Liam joyfully ran around the yard and burned off steam. A few games of cribbage later the girls were tucked into bed and the adults and big kids were at the table and Liam and Aoife hit a wall. After having eaten most of their lasagna, they both looked up, eyes heavy, and asked to go to bed. It had been a long few days. 
Greg and I weren’t long to follow. After dessert and coffee, we headed down to the cool, nearly sound-proof room in the basement for what we knew would be an amazing sleep.  I didn’t emerge for nearly twelve hours. 

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