portland / pasta / perfect

Today at 7:30 AM Ralph has the van gassed up and loaded with bowls of breakfast (homemade apple pie and slices of sharp cheddar cheese), a fresh thermos of coffee, and the kids’ clothes in the home-sewn backpack; as I’m staggering out of the shower finger-combing my wet hair he tucks the sleepy children into their booster seats – swaddled in blankets freshly warmed in the dryer, I shit thee not. (The kids’ normal wake-up time is something around 10:30 AM – on the rare occasions we wake them early they love this breakfast-on-the-road procedure).

Ralph is our hero.

My foursome and my mother load into the van and we’re off on the road to Lacey where we catch the train. Our mission: to pick up my mom’s van in Portland and meet up for lunch with my brother and sister before returning home.

Nels was up a couple times last night vomiting. At midnight he is crying as I soap him off in the tub: “I don’t get to go on the traiiiiin…!” I tell him well, maybe, we’ll see how you’re doing tomorrow. Yeah, we’ve paid his fare and all but it’s more than that: he’s never been on the train before. I know he’ll love it.

Nels makes it up to Lacey with only a dry heave or two and we catch the train with about ten minutes to spare. The trip to Portland is sunny and beautiful, the view out the windows serene and fascinating. The kids are less interested in sightseeing: they clamber around the train, help themselves to the dining cart, and are completely at ease including scoping the efficient little bathrooms with their carefully stocked soap, paper towels, and warm water. As I was on vomit-duty the night before I am feeling a bit punchy, as well as edgy that it is possible my son may vomit again. Sure enough, about thirty minutes before our arrival and Nels darts up and runs to the bathroom, to make it perfectly in time to vomit without a speck of mess anywhere. A pro. Thus concludes any sign of an illness of any sort.

We catch a cab through Portland to meet my brother and sister at his place where my mom’s car is stashed. From there to an Italian restaurant where I enjoy butter and sage roasted squash, broccolini, a very dry martini (I cannot remember the last time I had one), and caprese salad. There are more pleasant things in life than good food – but the combination of wonderful fare and family is rather irresistible and it must be admitted, a favorite past time of mine.

We end our Portland excursion with a trip up to Sophie’s possibly favorite park of all time: Mt. Tabor. The kids are rather docile and sweet except for Nels’ choice to pull down pants, pull up shirt, and pee. On the top of a volcano. In a public park. Miraculously – due to his speed and a serendipitous and marginally talented “drum circle” that is keeping many park goers occupied in that general direction – no one seems to see him. Except my sister who always seems quick to point out the ways kids do socially unacceptable things. Since my kids in turn are quick to comply with craziness, this works itself out well.

We say our goodbyes to my siblings and load up in the hot car. The trip back up the highway the kids both fall asleep; having shed there summer clothes, sweaty, their cheeks flushed. The conversations with my mother are wonderful. We talk about my dad; there is never a lack of discussion material, there. We stop at Burgerville in Chehalis and the children revivte to devour large portions of cheeseburger, milk, apple slices, and strawberry shortcake. We are back on the road and the kids are fully restored.

At home and Ralph had performed the yard and garden work (and watered our tomatoes, the first of which will be ripening soon), and cleaned the house. Fleet Foxes playing and I run a hot bath to soak my bones for a bit.

It might sound a bit busy, but for me it was a really. good. day.

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