Laundry is drying all over our house. It’s piled in a giant heap on the bathroom floor, it’s on the kitchen table and all over Eliza and Lucille’s room. We’ve been folding, choosing shorts and dresses, packing sandals and flip flops. Eliza has a suitcase filled with markers, a bathing suit and her Spiderman shoes waiting by the front door.
We’re headed to the Carolinas.
We’re going to see the grandparents.
And my two little girls couldn’t be more excited. Even at three and one they know grandparent visits mean candy, movies, toys. My dad has absolutely no qualms about going through the McDonald’s drive thru at 9:30 a.m. for an ice cream and my daughters know this. They can’t wait.
I asked Eliza if she wanted to bring a baby doll with her. She took my face in her hands as if to say, silly mommy. She might as well have shaken her head when she uttered her next sentence.
“Mamaw Ginger is going to buy me a brown baby with brown clothes,” she said of her grandmother.
“Oh, really?” I said. “Did she tell you this on the phone?”
“No, she just always buys me a baby,” Eliza said. Then she ran off to find more things to stuff in her carry on.
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The other day I took Eliza and Lucille to get a burrito in downtown Missoula. Ever since I first walked these snowy streets in the winter of 1996, I’ve always loved the heart of Missoula. I’ve spent many a winter afternoon in Butterfly Herbs drinking coffee, leafed through the magazine selection at Fact and Fiction and eaten lunch from Worden’s deli counter more times that I can count. Every decent pair of shoes I own came from Hide and Sole and my mother kindly bought both of our kids’ car seats at Whippersnappers. I eat breakfast every chance I get at the Catalyst and have passed more than one summer evening on the deck of the Old Post or outside Sean Kelly’s. I bank and go to the post office downtown. Eliza goes to preschool a few blocks from downtown and we live a five-minute bike ride from the center of it all.
Downtown has always been idyllic to me but after Saturday I’m seeing it in a different light.
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Yesterday Eliza wanted to see the chicks we are growing in our garage. Chirping away in an old dog crate they seem to triple in size every few days. I held her up to look through the slats of the crate.
“Mama, is that one sitting on a egg?” she asked.
“Oh, not yet baby,” I said. “They are still too young to lay eggs. But if we’re lucky, they’ll lay eggs this summer.”
“We are lucky, Mama,” she said.
As I bent to put her down I stopped still.
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Read Country Comes Home here. Pages 16-17.
Read I’m a Tiger Mama here. Page 22-23.
A week or so ago I walked a few blocks to Keila’s house to sit on her porch and drink IPA on the first semi-warmish evening in early spring. We talked journalism smack bundled in sweaters until we could take it no longer and retreated inside to the warmth of her house.
A few days later, I walked the other direction a few blocks to Anne’s house where she, Sarah and I piled up on her couch and talked about work, life and health. Her couch is big enough for all of us to fit comfortably. It felt like those days in college when you had nothing to do but sit around and chat. It felt that good.
Last weekend we ordered Thai food with our neighbors and sat on our back deck for an impromptu gathering on a Saturday night. We’d worked in our respective gardens most of the day raking, digging, turning last year’s beds.
Yesterday, I met Steve at the Kettlehouse, our local brewery, where our daughters took their shoes off and ran around until the bartenders told them to stop. Marcy was there and Freddie showed up with Cooper. Nici came with her daughters. The kiddos chased each other, giggled and ate sticky fruit leathers as we chatted and sipped our pints.
Lately, this is what my neighborhood looks like. And more and more it’s feeling like home.
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