Every year Henry and I go on vacation to my dad’s summer home in Idaho. Dad’s grandparents bought the property in 1937. There are LOTS of stories.
In the original cabin, there was a wrap-around porch where we all slept. When the original cabin finally sank into the ground mom and dad had a nice, solid, winterized house built with 2 bedrooms, futon, cots and a fabulous deck that’s best for coffee or wine and reading.
It took me several years to bring Henry to Idaho. I was afraid.The lake is right at the bottom of the stairs. The woods are next to the house. The Methodist camp is right behind us. The Lightning Bar is up the street. Any number of dangers await a small child with a communication disorder.
Finally, I manned up. He was almost 10. My dad and my brother were going to be there at the same time and so between the three of us, everything should be OK. Right? Right?!
When we got to Idaho, Henry’s response was the same as ours always is — total awe. From the cabin with the many beds (Henry loves beds, for a special treat take him to IKEA where he will get into every single bed on display) to the deck on stilts on the hill to the stairs that lead to the rock-filled beach to the lake that stretches across to a mountain. With sunny days, cold nights and sweater mornings it was as much heaven for him as it is for all of us.
Each night he slept in a different bed (see IKEA note above). By the fourth night he exhausted his options so I put him in the first night’s bed under the window. We woke up the next morning to find him on the floor in the front hall wrapped like a burrito in the rag rug that Great Grannymom made with her own hands.
This got him a stern talking to. I wrote a note for him that he was not to do that again. So he didn’t. The next morning we couldn’t find him anywhere. I ran around the house screaming his name the panic rising in my stomach while dad and my brother Charles did the same screaming and running. Then we noticed the antique handmade rag rug was gone from the front hall. Find the rug, find the boy.
He was under the stilted deck that provides a nice sort of shelter, wrapped in the rag rug, now more like a sleeping bag.
Ah, ok. “Do you want to sleep outside?” Anytime I ask him a question that he has clearly been trying to communicate for a while, I get a ‘Well, duh’ look. I’m the one with the communication disorder. He’s been quite clear, it’s me that isn’t getting it.
That afternoon we all drove up to Cabela’s, a store we suburbanites do not frequent, and Henry picked out acamouflage sleeping bag that came with it’s own canteen and flashlight.
I was still pretty much freaking out about him sleeping outside. There are moose, deer, skunk, raccoons and Methodist teenagers out in this wilderness. Charles & I devised a plan with the sleeping bag on top of the air mattress on top of the deck, the stairs to under the deck blocked off. While we were setting up we sat down on the air mattress and looked at the sky, filled with stars.
“Well, we’re idiots,” said Charles.
Pretty much. We missed out on this for the last 40 years.
That first night I didn’t sleep much, my dreams haunted by Far Side bears eating campers. But it’s been 10 years and from that year on Henry always sleeps outside, now in a tent in the yard with an extension cord for his iPad.
Henry’s ability to communicate his wants makes me want to be as clear and bold as he is about how I want to live.