Saturday, May 8, 2010

Georgian Bay Lullaby

On Thursday, April 29, I finally put my fieldstone farmhouse on the market. The sign is hammered into the lawn at the end of the driveway and I breathe a hearty sigh of relief to have finally reached this first part of the moving process. I had stayed up almost every night the preceding three or four nights, cleaning and tidying, straightening and dusting, washing and organizing. The entire process of home preparation started so many months ago now, I cannot even tell when it truly began. But to have reached this goal, for the most part single-handedly, I feel no small amount of pride and sense of accomplishment.

I have lived here for a decade now and while I've been packing away items, either for donation or for a future move, I've felt that each box weighs a little heavier with the memories I am enclosing along with the actual items. There is a LOT of stuff! And ten times as many memories to carry with me...

Tom Waits and Homemade Pies. What more could one want?

Three weeks ago, I receive an e-mail from a girlfriend inviting me up to her family's longtime cottage on Georgian Bay. The invitation is for April 23-25, the weekend immediately preceding my on-the-market goal date of the 29th.

My initial response is, "I don't think so." I don't say no immediately. I express my gratitude for the kindness to have myself and my son included, especially on a women's weekend away designed for mothers to have a break from mothering, some time to themselves, some girl time, some adult conversation time. I write that I doubt I will be able to swing taking the time away so close to the final approach of my listing date.

By the time the 22nd rolls around, however, I feel exhausted. My inner resources are depleted and I am still a crucial week away from getting things done. I write my friend and tell her I've changed my mind. Perhaps a break from all-things-house-all-the-time is just what I actually need to make it through the next week and meet my listing date? And so, I pack some bags, food and clothing for my Sonshine and three Subarus roll their way up to LaFontaine the evening of Friday the 23rd. This part of the Bay is near Christian Island. Gordon Lightfoot immediately comes to mind and I smile a secret smile.

It is dark when we arrive. As I step out of my car, I remove my shoes to feel the cool sand ooze between my toes for a moment before unpacking the gear. He has fallen asleep, of course, it being a three-hour drive and the dark of night licking the windows, slowly inking away the blur of trees and telephone poles.

The first thing that hits me as I walk into the cottage is the heavy, smoky scent of cedar. The walls are planked with it and it makes the bunk bed I am assigned in the back room even cozier. I lie down and stretch out to the sound of his tiny snores in the portable playpen I have set up in my little back room. The waves I do not hear. It is much too cold to open the windows.

cedars = dreamy

I wait like this until I'm sure his slumbering is solid, then creep out into the living room where huge plates of cheese and fig crackers and chocolate so-called 'orgasmatrons' (don't ask) await consumption. With the wine and the women, all that is missing really is song, though someone eventually clicks an iPod into a speaker base. There is a lot of laughter. There is warmth and wit. I feel like I've OD'd on some euphoric drug and realize how much time I've been spending alone out at my farmhouse. How much I've missed, not only adult conversation, but the company of wonderful women friends. I feel so blessed to have been embraced on this wee, Northern adventure.

sailboat, like an upturned belly of a beached dolphin

Saturday morning, the weather is glorious. The wind still a little cool, but a high of 17. It is odd for me not to have my eyes on my son every moment. Every time I enter or leave a room, I hear murmurs of, "We'll watch him." "I've got him covered." "Let me take him." "Will he come to me?"

White Pines. Signature of Northern Ontario.

It is as though I've been sent to some kind of camp for new mothers in heaven. He has 16 extra arms holding him, lifting him, swinging him, rocking him. And mine are, unbelievably, empty for a good chunk of the weekend. It feels strange. Surreal. But I allow myself the break. So this, I think to myself, this is what it is like. To have a partner, some "other" helping you. Eight partners, in fact. Wow. I didn't know it could feel like this.

Beach baby. All blissed out.

It is the first time I realize how much of my time, my body, my soul, my essence is spent connected to him and invested in him every second of each day. I am given the chance to relax, not to have to rush back to him, to breathe. I am encouraged to go for a walk on the beach. Alone. What a luxury it is to do this! I love the imprint of my foot sinking into the wet sand. The water is chilly. It is only April, after all. I am thinking of leaving my farmhouse. How much I will miss it. The surf of Georgian Bay rushes over my toes. I feel like I am this sand and this farmhouse is the water. The tidal pull, my heart. It is slowly ebbing away from me. I have to let it go and move on. I turn and look down the beach. He is back at the cottage. On the waves, small spurts of laughter carry over the water. In the sand are two perfectly shaped seashells. One for him. One for me. I pocket them and head back.

sockless before May = heaven

I feel so self-indulgent taking this brief time on my own. And still, I miss him! The feeling is as though one of my limbs is missing. That third arm I have become so used to son on my hip as I move around my kitchen, his small hand clinging to the button at my breast, the other reaching up behind me to gently caress the curls at the back of my head.

By nightfall, he has encountered an unusual amount of excess stimulation in 8 different smiles, 16 laughing eyes, 8 pairs of hands, of arms, passing him round and around, holding and hugging him. So much stimulation that he has problems falling asleep. This is a strange place for him. He likes the feel of the sand. The bay water is cold. Those white gulls sound so funny! This isn't home. Where is he? He is so out of his regular routine and familiar world that he will not go down to sleep. Each time I lay him in his playpen asleep and creep out, he awakens again crying for me. It is not until the fourth time I return that I begin to sing the lullaby. It is one my father and mother used to sing to me. An Irish one. He recognizes it immediately with a quiet smile as I nurse him. I am rocking him slowly in my arms, the fragrance of cedar, the sound of lakewater lapping to additionally soothe him. His tiny hand is at my throat, sensing the vibration of my chords as I sing, the pulse of my heartbeat beating its own rhythmic lull. And finally he succumbs to a deeper sleep. The kind he has at home.

Georgian Bay Lullaby

And I, myself, am lulled: from being up North, my favourite part of Ontario. From a two-hour hike in a forest of thick, old birch trees. From the company of 8 lovely women, giving their time, their support, their ears to me. Their compassion and strength and generosity and man, their FOOD, all that glorious cooking! I feel replenished. My inner batteries recharged.

Cloud on Georgian Bay

The rain doesn't start until we are on our way back home. I wave to darling J., the hostess with the mostess. I look in the rearview, at the white pines receding. At the mirror facing my son's seat. His eyes look up and to the side. He is smiling a tiny smile. I know he is replenished, too. He likes this North country. The water. The beach. He likes the sand and the cedars. He is an outdoors kinda boy. And he loves Nature. Just like his mama...


Tricia Orchard said...

Sounds heavenly. I am glad that you and your Sonshine had a chance to get away and that you took the opportunity to have some "alone" time. Every mum needs it once in awhile!

Brian Miller said...

sounds just beautiful...i can smell the cedar...happy mothers day!

Me said...

The North can replenish a soul, can't it? I go away North every April with a friend (blessed, I know, to have a partner to leave the kids with...) and I come back a brand new person.

Good luck with the house.

Anonymous said...

I'm so very glad that you and Sonshine managed a delightful getaway, after all! You needed it.

Sometimes we don't realize how much we need those extra 16 hands until they have surrounded, carried and comforted us.

Nishant said...

sounds just beautiful
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