There is something to be said about spontaneity. I’ve said it before, its one of the things I miss the most about not having kids. The ability to go away for a weekend without having to draw up a 30 page logistics plan or run through a three hour presentation involving detailed diagrams and strategies.
I also love not having to plan for weeks in advance to go away for a SINGLE weekend. It tends to sap the enjoyment right out of it for me. And I often ask myself if it was worth all the schlep in the first place.
Which is why this passed weekend was such a novelty for me. OK, while we didn’t exactly leave PRONTO, it can be said (and stated for the record) that we had our bright idea midweek and by the weekend we were enjoying our first ever, long time over due, family camping trip! It can also be stated for the record that my husband and I didn’t break up while pitching the tent. A first for us.
My husband and I are no strangers to Theewaterskloof Dam. A gorgeous, picturesque open space of water, trees and grass, about 100kms outside of Cape Town. Having spent many a family holiday there growing up, my husband was quick to introduce me to this special little piece of heaven. Soon after meeting in our early 20’s it became our monthly getaway spot and a trip we often took with his parents, younger brother and at least a dozen friends. We would drive in convoy with cars packed to the brim with bags, tents, skis, body boards, fire wood, food and crates of beers and ciders. The only planning between everyone back then was deciding whose turn it was to bring the tequila. The only time logistics played a big role was figuring out how to get and keep our drinks cold. And the only time a fight would erupt between the boys was when the clubhouse ran out of ice. And so, a competitive game of Ching Chong Cha (or cricket if there was time) would break out. Rules were simple. Loser would drive into town for more. Often the guys would all end up going together for an ice run while the girls stayed behind to soak up the last of the days sun and “waited” for their return. We would stay up late having drinks and listening to music and rise early the next morning to be on the water as early as they would allow. The sound of the first boat engine, a sure sign of the fun that was to be had. A day spent on the boat or behind it. These were the kind of summers we spent there. These are the memories we made.
Which is why I couldn’t believe we hadn’t been back in four and a half years! I fell pregnant with Noah and that was pretty much the end of it. To be honest, I don’t know why we stopped going in my early pregnancy. Maybe it had something to do with it being my first pregnancy and being worried that if I didn’t sleep on a soft enough bed or wear enough sun block in the heat, or if I swam in water that was too cold or swallowed water while showering, my baby would be at risk. In hindsight, I realize these were silly concerns. Hell, there’s more risk at home with my kids on the lose. And after that, Brody was born and it was always a deliberation over whether it was too hot or too cold, whether Body was old enough or whether our kids would cry all night and ban us form ever coming back there.
Returning to this magical place 4 years later was amazing. A flood of nostalgia hit me as we arrived at the entrance to sign in and I realized I had forgotten how much I missed this place. Nothing had changed except maybe, if it were possible; it had become even more beautiful. We couldn’t wait to show the boys around. The second he got out the car and saw the water Noah’s eyes lit up. He was taking it all in. “Lets put the tent up Dad!” he shouted unable to contain his excitement.
Brody literally hit the ground running and didn’t stop until he was strapped back in the car seat to head home and while it was exhausting running after him for hours at a time, he loved the freedom of being able to explore and lead the way. He is at that very adventurous age where everything needs to be touched and looked at. And everything, I repeat EVERYTHING needs to be climbed on. This means he is often in the wars. A count of this weekends casualties alone: He fell out the caravan twice, split his lip open on a table while eating breakfast, tripped over his feet running approximately 23 times, rolled off the caravan step 6 times, fell into the dam once (while playing in the shallow water with Brendon right next to him) and dropped a hammer on his toe. Not bad for 48 hours. Not bad at all.
It was a weekend full of all my favorite things. We swam while the kids splashed in the shallow water with their Nana. Noah had a very intense lesson from his dad in pebble throwing and it became his mission to find the flattest stone and master this technique. While dad made a fire the boys and I took a walk down to the water to watch the sunset and snap some pictures. I sat with both of them on a small overturned boat and we took photos of each other. I watched them run around as the sunlight caught their shiny happy little faces. I realized just how much we needed it, to be away from our usual everyday “stuff’! Later on we had a braai and ate in the dark. I’m not entirely sure what we ate but it tasted delicious and we washed it down with some red wine. As our food settled and we let the wine take effect we let our heads hang back while we looked at the stars. Noah sat on my lap and we made shapes with all the stars twinkling ever so brightly in that beautiful clear sky. Once both boys were passed out (in the caravan with nana) we sat drinking more wine while enjoying the sound of crickets and the crackling fire. Time stands still in places like this. It was only 10 pm by the time we transferred Noah to the tent to sleep with dad. He had to wake up in the tent he helped to pitch after all.
The next morning we went walking together and came back to a big fry up that good old nana had prepared for us. I lay in the sun with a book while Brody had his morning nap and remembered what it felt like to sit still for long enough to feel the sun burn your skin. Later we took the canoe out and Noah paddled in the shallow water. I can remember shouting to Brendon “I wish I had my phone to take more pictures of this!” and his usual cheeky reply was “take a mental picture babe” as he pushed his two fingers to his temples. As cheesy as it sounded, it’s exactly what I did. I took a mental picture of my man: his arms covered in tattoos, shades covering his eyes and a huge smile spread over his face and my big boy: huge eyes peering out from under his bright orange cap, a smirk on his sweet little face, so happy to be there in that canoe with his dad. Click. And there you have it. One of the best pictures I have ever taken.
On our drive home I cant tell you how many times I asked myself why we had not brought them back sooner. But I began to live in the contentment of knowing that we finally had. I began to live in the present, knowing that this was the start of many stories and memories we will make. Ones that involve our own children now and memories that will one day (hopefully) include their friends. I watched the open road in front of us, happy children chirping from the back, and realized this was only the beginning.
BY: LEIGH GEARY