So I sent my kids to school on the first day with a random notebook each, and nothing to write with. "Borrow from your neighbor." I told them. "It's a great way to make new friends....."
And then I kissed them goodbye and sent them on their way.
And I didn't even really feel bad about it.
You know why? Because we'd just had the best last-weekend-of-summer a kid could ask for. We'd made a last minute run for the river.... and it was so worth it.
Earlier in the year I'd gotten my hands on a family cabin at Camp Ocoee -- right on the lake at the end of the river -- and Mike and I were tyring to figure out when we were going to use this thing. As we scoured the calendar to find a "logical" weekend option, the ones that made the most sense to take were farther and farther away from summer. And that meant farther and farther away from warm weather, longer days and good water releases.
So we decided to seize the day. Or, more accurately, the upcoming weekend. The weekend before the first day of school - a literal "last hurrah" for the boys.
We loaded the kids up into the car at 7:00pm and drove the 5 and a half hours it took us to get to Ducktown Tennessee - which, in case you're wondering, is as small as the name suggests. We rolled in at midnight, found a place to pitch our tent, and persuaded 2 sleepy boys out of the car and into their sleeping bags. And when dawn pushed itself up and over the horizon in the morning, both boys were up, racing around and raring to go. "Let's go RAFTING!! Let's go RAFTING!! Are you ready?! Can we go RAFTING?!" In fact, they were SO excited, we even beat the water to the put-in.
And that day -- in truth, the entire weekend - was filled with so much excitement, and joy, and frenzied screaming that pencils and erasers and notebook paper seemed unimportant. And when their cousins and aunt and uncle joined us, the excitement and joy and frenzied screaming was only amplified as we piled more kids into the raft and took off for run after run..... smashing through waves and bouncing over ledges amid shrieks of laughter.
We took side-hikes up Goforth Creek, and the kids busied themselves studying the currents and constructing make-shift rafts out of sticks -- using thin green twigs to tie them all together. They scrounged the hulls of buckeyes out of the dirt to make little kayaks that they'd send down the small stream, predicting what route each one would take, and what would happen as it hit each miniaturized "river feature". They'd cheer and clap when they were right, scoop their boats up out of the water at the end of the run, and race back up the rocks to do it again. Gibson engineered his own "undercut" rock feature in the middle of the stream, and then showed us what happens when a boat accidentally runs into one.
"Mom!" he said, "I know why they can be dangerous.... Here... Watch this..."
They were all perfect examples of science experiments, right there in nature's classroom. No pencils, or notebooks or erasers necessary.
And at then end of each day, back at the cabin (though solidly worn out from the river miles) there was this:
Which was not to shabby a way to spend the evening.
On Sunday -- the final day of the best-last-weekend-of-summer -- Jen and the kids and I spent a lazy morning reading books, swimming in the lake, and launching ourselves off the rope swing, while Mike and Chris got a run in by themselves. Sunday was ticking away and I still had to go to the store -- had to get some school supplies for the boys. But...well...... it was the best-last-day-of-summer. So..... You know..... (shrug).
At 1:00, we packed up the cabin, loaded up the cars, and went to the put-in for one more run. Putting on at 2:00 meant we probably wouldn't be off the river until 5:00. And then we had a 5 and a half hour drive back to Charlotte.
"What do you think?" Mike wanted to know...
You know what I thought? I thought that the final day of the best-last-weekend-of-summer was not a day to be stressed. And that we should soak up every last minute of it.
And so we did.
And when your 5 year old nephew is bouncing on the thwart in front of you screaming "AWESOME!!AWESOME!!AWESOME!!AWESOME!!" when you plow through the first big hit on the river, and every kid in the raft is yelling "SURF IT! SURF IT! SURF IT!" when you paddle up to the reliable surfing hole, and when your 8 year old is screaming "THIS IS THE BEST MOST AWESOME DAY OF MY LIFE!!!" when you drop them into the final rapid of the day, with all of them crammed into the front compartment so that they can be absolutely and thoroughly drenched with the wave coming over the bow of the boat.........well.... being irresponsible is sometimes the responsible thing to do. Especially when they look like this:
That weekend was good for my soul. It was good for Mike's soul. It was good for their souls. And at the end of our last-minute-irresponsible-last-weekend-of-the-summer-getaway, they were so full to the top with fun and laughter and happiness and achievement, that even though they didn't technically have what they "needed"... there's not a doubt in my mind that, really? They had exactly what they needed.