The heater is purring, the cat is abed

I sit half-asleep and listen to the heater purr. It is comforting, knowing that one spot in the well-ventilated apartment is warm and cozy. Oddly, the one spot is in a corner not near to anything except a bag of books destined for the library. One of the cats is under my leg, not of my doing. I’m home again.

The Boy and I had a fantabulous time on our trip. We took a road-trip, he and I, to the far-off reaches of California. From our own San Diego we drove up north to Petaluma to spend several days with friends, horses named Chance and Meg, and seven cats. Much riding and tacking ensued, along with visiting of sheep on a biodynamic vineyard and exploring caves filled with wine. From there, we drove to Barstow, to visit wee guy’s great-grandma and play Medieval Castle in the wasted, barren backyard that is slowly being reclaimed by the desert. The foundation of a long-gone shed became the castle walls, the doorway opening the drawbridge, browned drifts of fallen pine needles the moat. He asked me, Ye Olde Mother, to make him a new coat, and this became the game: I would sew him a coat if he would go to Goody Smith for yarn.

I was then Goody Smith. Goody Smith would give him yarn, if he would watch the sheep while I visited out of the castle, and if he would help me with the shearing and washing of the wool. While he watched the “roving” drying on the “line” so as not to be stolen by birds and squirrels, I “spun” using sticks we found near a bush. Then I gave him his “yarn,” which he took to Mama.

I (now Mama again) told him he’d have to go to Goody Weaver to weave the fabric. So he was off to me (now Goody Weaver, and yes I KNOW they were probably not Goodwifes back in medieval days but I was riffing, it was freezing, we were sitting on a bare cement foundation in the middle of the desert and my only props were sticks. Give me a break). Anyway, off to Goody Weaver he goes, and makes a deal–she/I will weave the fabric for his new coat if he will help me to dye the yarns. We chose the colors and he went out to pick the “plants” with which to dye them (walnuts for the brown, madder for the red, goldenrod roots for the golden, and something green… oh, I can’t remember). Then he helped me dye the yarn, and again watched the “yarn” dry on the “line” while I “wove” using my arms and a stick as a shuttle. We then washed and ironed the fabric and he took it home to Mama.

Who then said she/I would sew him a coat, if he would harvest the vegetables and prepare them for dinner.

By the end, he was completely hooked on the game. What else could we trade? What else could we make? Who else could we visit?

And I had to make a choice: play a while longer, or go inside and reacquaint myself with my fingertips and dripping nose. It was freezing, I tell you.

So we played a while longer. Boy-now-the-Guardian-of-the-Moat refused me (now the Black Knight) entry into the castle. I stood there, growly in my best Bad Knight impersonation, while he, having drawn up the drawbridge, delivered mail to everyone in the castle walls. Everyone I had explained lived within the castle walls: king, queen, entourage, miller, baker, washer, blacksmith… They all received mail, while my nose dripped and my ankles gave up a layer of skin. Finally, the Black Knight was vanquished, and the Guardian of the Moat and I relocated to a less medieval play area. One with heating. One with tissues.

I also had the chance to really talk to my grandma on this trip (who is 87 and quite snappy and awesome). Our visits are so often overshadowed by the overwhelming number of family members in the room with us at any given time, visits being rare and therefore a social occasion. In return for the chance to talk with her, I was gifted with family photos, including a series taken by my grandfather while on a tour of duty in Vietnam (with captions), and a series of my grandma graduating from high school and flirting with Kenny, who was definitely not my grandfather. (“He and his mother thought I was going to marry him. They were wrong… Oh, and that’s my sister. She married the ice man.”) Gold.

All in all, well worth the 22 hours of driving. Added benefits? Lots and lots of talking time with my little guy, lots of stories on CD, our first experience with chapter books, and a renewed appreciation for children’s ability to play happily with very few, very impromptu toys. Geeklet and I are now into our second reading of Little House in the Big Woods (he didn’t want it to end, and requested an encore). My hands have since thawed, my nose has recovered, and the wee guy is ensconced once more in the land of Legos, telling tales of Space Ship Three to the moon.

But for a while, we lived in a castle in the desert, riding horses and examining gopher skulls, and it was pretty good.

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