A River Visit

The day is hot and the morning feels like days ago when she calls. I am tired, slumping toward a midday tea, the kids sliding into crankiness and bickering. “The river?” she asks and I say yes while trying to mentally locate all the towels, swimsuits, goggles and snacks needed. The kids squeal and giggle, pulling on their suits and slopping cursory layers of sunscreen on their shoulders. I think of arriving home later with no dinner planned and feel heaviness settle on my shoulders. Pushing the thought aside, I shove a water bottle and a container of fruit into the backpack, settle us into the car and pull out onto the road.

The warm wind ruffles my daughter’s hair as we pass the library. I watch my son’s hand rise and fall in my side mirror, his fingers stretching to feel the pull of the wind against his palm. I exhale slowly and feel their chatter wash like waves over me.
There are many things that we cherish as mothers; long sleeps, meals eaten joyfully, first words and first novels, cuddles and caresses, but chief among I would argue, is a mama friend who sees you exactly as you are. Who loves you, and your children, with a familiar ease. Whose help feels effortless and infinitely reciprocated. These friends can change a day, rescue a week, and help us find our footing on the narrow footpaths of motherhood.
As I follow our little throng of summer ­grown children along the woody path I think about the mothers who surround me, who have become like sisters in homeschooling and child rearing and mothering. We meet to knit and plan, cry and laugh, empathizing over cups of tea or glasses of wine. These meetings, held in the middle of park meet ups or over each other’s kitchen tables, sometimes in the evenings with our charges safely tucked into bed, sweaty­ haired and deep­ breathing, are lighthouses to mark our travels. We greet and pass, proffering words of advice or understanding, always moving along our own trajectories, now together, now alone.
This afternoon the children, sun­dappled and summer­skinned, screech and scatter like starlings, engrossed in their play. I watch my friend’s back, strong and tanned ahead of me, and I think of the conversations we have shared, the tears and laughter that have surrounded us, the warmth of each other’s hugs. We talk again today, seated on the warm rocks, the pools of the river flowing silently onward, heading inevitably to the sea. We talk of daughters and media and makeup, of sons and homeschooling and favourite recipes. We sit and mostly we hold each other in this silence, this simple moment when our children play and we are utterly content.
Here in the golden light of summer, the water bugs skating over the surface of the pool, the cool water running down the laughing faces and round bellies of our children, I feel serene. I am thankful for her call before lunch, thankful for the cold shock of the river on my skin, thankful for the camaraderie of boys and sticks and clay, thankful for the whispered secrets of girls and swimming and make believe, thankful to walk this journey in the company of these women.

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