Marlie caught the bus to school today; her first day in a classroom in more than a year and a half. I think I was more misty than when she first left for kindergarten. This summer, since arriving home, has been far more of a roller coaster ride than we’d expected.
There were the immediate needs of making our house livable. Our brittanys, Sadie and Ayla, missed us quite a lot. In our absence, they spent their time renovating the siding on our garage and garden shed with their teeth. I suspect some sort of small, striped rodent had taken refuge under one of the boards, and the dogs felt any force was reasonable to dislodge it. On the other end of the house, the wall above our bed in the master bedroom had become home to several families of birds, who pecked ingress holes in the aging planks, and tossed out the insulation to make room for their families.
A rather unpleasant smelling puddle below our house turned out to be an overflowing septic tank. While the man from Roto Rooter had the lid off and was working on pumping it, I thought it would be educational for the girls to see inside a septic tank: a morbidly interesting experience. A thick layer had formed on the top of the sh*# in the tank, which Mr. Roto Rooter had to break up with a big paddle, sort of like stirring a pot of chili with a large wooden spoon. Except, surfacing over and over in the ooze were the unmistakable shape of things I’d not really wanted to point out to my tween and teen daughters. Our septic tank was full of floating, used condoms. Apparently our renters had been busy and did not realize that condoms, unlike toilet paper and poop, do not break down in a septic system. A week later, Roto Rooter made a return trip when the tank again began overflowing. The outflow was plugged. Probably with many months worth of latex.
We’ve been purging, even still. Suddenly being surrounded by so much stuff felt like landing in the middle of an episode of Hoarders. We’d developed an aversion to our own belongings; they felt suffocating. While we know we’ll never pare back down to one suitcase or backpack per person while living in one place, we now fully understand how possessions own the owner, not the other way around.
The first summer we were gone, a pipe under the driveway, the main line for our sprinkler system, burst. The renters did not realize what had happened until the heat of summer hit and the system was turned back on. Just when the plants need it most. This summer we dug out the dead garden and yard and started over. It’s far from finished, but at least I don’t hear the theme song to the Addam’s Family in my head and start snapping my fingers every time I pull in the driveway anymore.
Both of the girls spent their summer at home finishing school. While a summer vacation might have been nice, it was a trade-off we all knew was coming. Marlie managed to finish her curriculum two weeks ago, Hannah is still wrapping up the summer work for her upcoming year of honors English. (Her first day of school is tomorrow.) While sitting in front of a computer researching Romanovs and practicing equations while their peers float the Deschutes River on inner-tubes might not be the preference, both girls bucked up and managed it.
Most exciting, Hannah met with the art teacher, who looked over her “home school” art work portfolio to evaluate Hannah’s working skill level. She was accepted into a class she missed two prerequisites for. Drawing Realistic Faces was the only educational book hauled along in her backpack, along with a sketchbook, a few tubes of acrylic pants, brushes and pencils. In retrospect, they were worth their weight.
The thing I am struggling with the most was more unexpected, though. It seems a little pathetic, and makes me feel like a whiner. I just spent about a year and a half exploring the world with my husband and children, an experience only a small fraction of any population will ever be able to do. And yet, as I settle back home, I am depressed. For the first time in my life, I don’t know what is next. When I was young, I needed to get through school. A career as a dude rancher followed for two decades. As we sold the ranch, my focus was on planning for our walkabout. I suppose it is like a friend told me when I confided this over dinner last week, it’s the same melancholy that afflicts many when they retire or reach other huge life goals. Just when they expect to be happiest, they are hit with some empty anxiety that is hard to shake.
We have started writing about our experiences: a family collective memoir. Each is telling the story in their own voice. Sort of the Poisonwood Bible version of “Our Trip Around The World.” Whether we do anything with the end result or just keep it for ourselves, the retrospective processing will be good for all of us to try to understand what we have learned.
As for this blog, I suspect I’ll just let it rest for now that our trip is finished, maybe picking it up now and then when I have something significant to share. I never did manage to turn it into a commercial venture, so as an avenue to share our experiences with family and friends and a small handful of other people who came along, it doesn’t really make sense to keep it up as we step back into “ordinary.”
Thanks for sharing the journey ~ ciao