Among the things I let go of this year was this blog, which was not on purpose. But, since I make up the rules, I will un-let it go. In the past few months I’ve moulted a couple more bins of clothes, photographing the most entertaining mistakes for later. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about things that you shouldn’t let go, and things you should let come and go.
Take children. We temporarily went back up to five Tollivers and three dogs in February, when our grown daughter Kayla and Athena (a sweet-tempered boxer mix) came to live with us in February. Once we had the three dogs, I felt we swerved dangerously into weird animal hoarder territory. It is embarrassing to drive through the McDonalds with three dogs in the car, one drooling, the second yapping so loudly they can’t take your order, and the third in the front passenger seat nosing you for her personal order of fries. Getting dragged down the street by three dogs is sad, so a lot more dog school was in order. Our second dog Alejandro – his burning machismo undimmed by neutering – bit Athena so badly on her second day in El Salvador that we needed a vet visit. He then became obsessed with her. A tortured Parisian artist chasing his Muse would have been no match for Alejandro, if the Rive Gauche were our living room carpet, and if Art turned out to be mostly about licking. Like a LOT of licking. He spent hours tenderly washing her face with his tongue, and we spent only slightly fewer hours trying to get him to stop. On the bright side, our first dog Friday seemed to appreciate the respite, during which her own face had time to dry.
All this was far less drama than what was going on with the people, because my family is usually doing something complicated, tiring and always quite the opposite of letting go. But it was completely, richly, worth it.
Other things to not let go of: Due to my husband’s wide contrarian streak, my family re-invents perfectly serviceable holidays. Last Thanksgiving, Morgan wanted to go ziplining, and the kids wanted pizza. I was too tired to object. I found the approach to the very first zipline terrifying, though. I bobbled. I cursed myself for listening to my husband. The girls could see I was scared. And I would have turned back, too, except I was already on a tiny platform up in the trees with no other way down other than to sail across a lush green gulley, 1,500 feet high in a little fanny harness attached to steel cable. I didn’t dare look down, only up, as I slid away into the warm blue air. And it was, of course, a tiny piece of Heaven. As were the next thirteen lines, each better than the last. Morgan was a good enough husband not to say he told me so.
Still, I felt a stab of fear when I watched Hunter, then Kayla, then Grace glide away from me across the next valley. Was the harness secure? Would they remember to keep their right hand on the cable? How well-maintained was that cable, anyway? I flashed back ten years to grade school, and remembered how soft and small they felt when I hugged them. But before I could fail to let go, away they flew from Morgan and me. And as they shrank into the distance I could see they were happy.
Kayla and Athena flew back to the U.S. last August. It still feels like there are young woman- and dog-shaped holes in our household, where the two of them used to be. This same beautiful daughter is getting married soon, which is news that makes me feel a hundred years old and like an excited little kid at the same time.
We five are scattered in three cities this Christmas, though happily we will be back together for Kayla’s wedding and for Christmas. A little more tradition seems called for this time, so Hunter, Grace and I will attempt a normal Thanksgiving dinner. OK, technically Grace and I decided. But Hunter will be fully briefed. Here is last Sunday morning’s planning session:
Me: What do you want to eat for Thanksgiving?
Grace: Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Me: Cat whiskers sounds terrible
Grace: I want my favorite things.
Me: You need to name some foods.
Grace: There’s food in the song.
Me: There is?
Grace: Yes, something about Snickers and noodles.
Me: You are no help.
Grace: Stuffing. I want stuffing.
So I bought a turkey. Wish us luck.