I’m writing this in advance of the weekend because Newman and I are heading out on a short camping trip. He and I will camp alone one night in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and three of his children, along with their significant others and their cousin, will join us on Saturday to celebrate Newman’s birthday.
Newman and I already camped for one night earlier this week. Our campsite was right next to a river, and we got to hike and read and find some quiet time together. We also found a great restaurant for dinner; since it was only one night, we didn’t bother packing food to cook. I used to feel guilty about how often we eat out, but now I just enjoy the opportunities when they arise. I figure that other phases will bring more home-cooking into our routine, and now, it’s quite lovely to have date nights out. We indulged in an amazing beet salad (which Kristen R. introduced me to and has since become one of my favorite things to eat), scallops, and even chocolate mousse.
When we got back to our campsite, Newman asked me to go for a walk in the dark with him. He’s asked me to do this several times before, and not just while camping, but I haven’t gone as being in the dark brings out all my fears. I’m quite chicken about certain stuff when you get right down to it. Newman promised to hold my hand and not go far, so off we went, slowly picking our way through the campground. It was just before quiet hours were to begin, so we found ourselves hidden on the dark road and able to peek into others’ sites as we passed by. We saw big families, smaller quiet groups, and a drunken party or two all enjoying the night air. Then we found some space without campers, and the darkness covered us entirely. We walked slowly so we wouldn’t inadvertently wander off the path. All of a sudden, the trees opened up ahead, and we could see the night sky. We stopped, looking up at the same time, and immediately we both saw a meteor shoot across the sky. We lay down right where we were on the road so we could watch for more, and while we didn’t see any, it was very cool to just be there, holding my partner’s hand, watching the starry sky.
Of course, I have the luxury of enjoying all this because Free is away with her dad this week. Missing her comes in waves, especially since I’ve made an effort not to barrage her with calls when she’s with him. I try to only check in once or twice as I know she can call me anytime she wants. In the past, I’ve felt guilt follow on the tails of any enjoyment I experience during my time away from her. Those pangs are lessening, though, as I know being able to relax when I can makes me a better mother when she’s with me. Also, she’s in great hands with her dad. I know from Newman’s journey with his teens that letting go is one of the biggest challenges of parenthood. I’m getting early training as a result of my shared custody situation.
The last time she went on vacation with her dad (to Martha’s Vineyard), she came back with a t-shirt saying she’d jumped off the big bridge there. This week, my sister, who visited Free and her dad on their vacation, took this picture of her at the beach.
The photograph captures one of my favorite things about my daughter: her willingness to take risks and be open to what the world is offering her. In effect, that openness allows her to fly, and I can learn a lesson from her. She is showing me it’s ok to let go and jump in to the present moment. And for today, that’s enough.