The rain broke in waves over our little box house in the predawn darkness. Thunder rattled the walls and caused the children to mutter in their sleep. I lay awake wondering what we’d left out to get wet and enjoying the cool air, washed clean by the downpour. After over 10,000 miles we’ve come to a stop and anchored our land yacht, for a few months at least.
We arrived Sunday night, completely worn out but feeling very loved following one last marathon weekend of reunions with dear friends. The camper we were towing from Texas was successfully delivered to it’s new home in New Hampshire. The children, who measure all trips by their distance from the Wood Family Farm, got to romp and scream through the forest with six of their favorite kids. We even arrived in time to help release this year’s crop of baby chicks from their cardboard prison in the basement to the great, green outdoors and watch as Mrs. Wood began the annual retraining of the hound that the chicks are “friends, not food.” It was a weekend of staying up too late, laughing too hard, a tiny blonde girl and her monkey who’ve missed us too much tiptoeing down the stairs in the early morning to climb in our sleeping bag, wedge herself between us to “camp,” and the first bonfire of the season, complete with flaming marshmallows being flung on the ends of hot sticks. Dorothy was right: “There’s no place like home.”
In spite of the massive flooding in New England, which had us nervously e-mailing from Guatemala, our camper weathered the winter well. I think I detected a little resentment, as I was scrubbing her down in the sunshine on Wednesday, over having been left here to shiver while we wintered in the warm. Not all of our friends here were so lucky; some of them are still redoing the damage to flooded lower levels of their homes.
I had hoped to rest this week. To recover a little from the last two weeks of driving alone and unpack, little by little. No such luck. The usual avalanche of re-entry chores and school reorganization was added to by a trip to the ER and a hands-on lesson in fire safety. I really thought Gabriel had broken his arm. For a kid who never cries, an hour and a half of wide-eyed gasping for breath is a long time. For a mom who just wants to make the pain stop, forty minutes of driving from health center to health center trying to find one that actually existed (thank you GPS) or was open, or had an x-ray machine, only to eventually end up in a hospital on the border of Rhode Island is frustrating. No one appreciated more than I did the nice clean hospital, the ability to communicate the injury in our first language, the nicely gloved attendants or the readily available supplies to care for any harm. I whispered to Tony in the waiting room, “This sure beats the hospital in San Pedro, I’ll bet they have suture kits AND butterfly bandages here!” Of course the field dressing, antibiotics and pain meds we got in Guatemala were free, I have no idea what this little adventure cost us, but I’m guessing I’ve made an even trade of the new laptop I’ve been looking at for two sets of x-rays and a sling that, incidentally, was made in Guatemala. Needless to say, his dive off of the ripstick resulted in a bad sprain and nothing more. His friend Jordan was in the same ER, at the same time, also from a ripstick crash… with a severely broken ankle. Note to self: add a layer of bubble wrap to the required helmet for added protection.
I was giving the camper her spring bath when Gabe came running, wild eyed, slinged arm flapping like a clipped duck’s wing in light blue. I’d like to be a better Mom. I’d like to say that something other than, “WHAT NOW?!” was running through my head, but I’ve become so conditioned to the string of mini-crises that decorate boyhood that not much surprises me. “MOM!! The trash container is smoking! The big green one! It’s on FIRE!” My first question: “Did YOU do it?!” “No, Ma’am!! But it’s smoking really big and I’m SCARED!” That was no lie, he was shaking from head to toe. It was amazing to me that among the six or so adults in the area not a one had a fire extinguisher (my camper sized one did nothing but beat down the obvious flames for long enough to send for the hose man) or had the least idea of how to contain the OTHER fire that the boys hadn’t discovered yet, burning in the dry leaves on a long stretch of river bank. Hannah and I commandeered a rake and I explained to her how to isolate the burning patch by raking a wide swath on either side down to the dirt. She asked whether that would work, considering that fire could spread by roots too, which was a good observation. This fire wasn’t burning that deep, it looked like the result of a miscalculated cigarette flick. Three old hens stood nearby and clucked about how they’d called the office but the line was busy (its a 500 yd. walk) and that there should really be a fire buzzer and SOMEBODY should come do something, and for me to watch my feet. Hannah lifted one eyebrow, surreptitiously, in my direction and I stifled a giggle. We were having the same thought.
Today is Saturday and we’re resting in. The rain is still dripping on the top of my little tin can house and I’m tucked under the bright rainbow that is the blanket I bought in Chichicastenango months ago. It is whispering quietly to me in Quiche about the alte plano, smoking volcanoes, coffee bushes laden with red fruit and the sapphire blue lake I’ve been dreaming about at night. If I listen carefully I can here the slap-slap-slap of brown hands deftly patting out blue corn tortillas and laughter of the beggar lady sitting under the corn bower on the steps of the little church… not the big one with the flaming alter to primitive gods on the front steps where chickens were being sacrificed and incense burned, the little stone church on the other side of the square. It looks a bit ridiculous this far from home, it matches nothing and it sings loudly in the darkness in the wrong language, but I don’t care. It’s my blanket and it’s colors are woven into the pattern of my soul.