my family has just returned from a week away to tofino, a small and remote town on the west coast of vancouver island that serves as our home away from home.
sometimes, when driving in, and this trip was no exception, i realize what i seem to forget over and over: that this is where i went missing. it’s no one’s fault that we moved out so fast but, evidently, i wasn’t ready.
as it is now, life finds us well in vancouver, and we have a roundness and a wholeness to our life that we could not have achieved on the edge. i remain confident that we made the right choice for our then son and now our plus one but my ghost lingers in that land, and i could almost hear pieces of me coming together as we drove further along, remnants of a spirit self lurking behind every curve of the treacherous highway and then surfacing; finding me.
my spouse drove us in steady, silent in thought and tapping his fingers to music we couldn’t hear, at ease in the familiar and soon to be in his family home, that of his family of origin- those that make him who he is and help explain some of what he has never been able to say.
my big boy, excited and anxious, desperate with anticipation to see “the tofino house” and the cousins that he adores and idolizes, played out every road trip cliche, asking every few minutes if we were there yet, begging for us to hurry, fighting sleep with repetitive movement like shaking his head, kicking his legs, rocking backwards and forward, and making obnoxious noises that he generously referred to as “songs”.
our precious baby, a living lesson in keeping an open heart and trusting those who love you, curiously looked at the passing scenery with an uninformed yet peaceful acceptance.
it seemed that all of us but our ever consistent baby behaved differently en route, gradually admitting to ourselves how much we miss living there and how right it feels to return.
we eventually arrived and unpacked- some baggage too. it was unintentional but the air, heavy with moisture, met my face and the release was immediate. then, on wednesday, a few days in, the release deepened. just like in yoga when the pose is enhanced by your breath alone.
my big boy had asked me on a date to the beach, just me and him, and we went of course. he and i can’t get enough of that air- it brings us both to who we wish we could be, i think. he was down the path and soon knee deep in the water, and i, standing tall and facing the roar, was immediately overwhelmed with the sight of him free and unrestricted. both of us, made fresh, made clear, in mere moments.
it’s always been this way for me. same goes for him.
we spent his maternity leave in tofino and with hours and hours a day with nothing to do but love him, we found ourselves on long beach walks, almost everyday. not for nothing, either. tightly wound and full of complaint inside, my baby boy relaxed seconds after we closed the front door behind us, as did i. regardless of the weather, often near tempest, we were there, usually first thing in the morning before our moods could get ahead of us.
i remember walking with him mid winter in torrential rain, me in full rain gear and his stroller encased: a safe haven against the elements and his mother’s angst while she was making sense of her new life. it wasn’t an easy time. my first son was sensitive and particular and a lot of effort was required of me to keep his wails away. i sorted us both out over time, especially when i built in the beach ceremony- with waves and blood pulsing it all made sense somehow and i came to measure my parenting success on any one day if i achieved him getting rosy cheeks.
on crazy days, i thought that if he could face and take in enough of the storm that he’d be healthy, well raised, though i still don’t really know the details why. regardless, pushing him before me did us both good. i always returned from the treks breathing heavy and legs tingling, all my inner tumultuousness quieted by the louder chaos outside, and our days were calmer together, and brighter, optimistic even, having already conquered something, anything, that day.
this date day, all these years later, he was before me again. he had the same eyes, same look, and same vibe as he did when he was the most compact and intense version of himself but he’s matured so much now, and so have i. we made it. we made it through the dark, both emotional and literal, as tofino winters are not known to be luminous, and we made it all the way to another gorgeous life joining us on our journey of being born a family.
our morning at the beach was too soon over and, before we knew it, we all found ourselves on the ride home- marked by satisfaction and fatigue.
“are we there yet?”, he asked as we drove towards our permanent home. “i think so”, i answered.