My hubby’s family have a cottage up in Bainskloof. My hub used to hitch hike up there as a teen during school holidays with his mates and stay there for weeks, braai’ing every meal. They used to sleep outside under the stars and swim in the mountain river all day. Bliss.
It’s rustic. ‘One step up from camping’ as we describe it. The kitchen is a rondavel shape and smells like gas. The rooms have well worn couches, bookshelves packed with old books (and dust), paint peeling off the walls and everything is a different shade of white. The cottage itself is like an old well-loved family member, holding many beautiful memories and a quiet space when you desperately need an escape. And it sleeps about 8 people.
So here we are. Just us 4. Catching a break from real life.
Friday: General anticipated morning chaos, and school drop off. I do my regular rush-in-and-out-of-work followed by the midday pick up routine. Then home to pack EVERY-THING. Food (3 huge bags), kids clothes, our clothes, bedding, toys, books, bikes and balls. Nappies, wipes, wine, chocolate, towels, toilet paper and black bags. After packing the car Tetris-style I threw the kids amongst it all, gave them packets of promised popcorn and off we went to pick up Daddy. Yes. So far it’s all me. SUPERMOM.
We picked dad up from work, detoured past Nandos for dinner in Bellville, and onward we drove to Bainskloof, arriving at sunset. Hubby unpacked everything (his turn to play SUPER-PARENT) while the kids ran around shouting ‘Bainskloooof, Bainskloooof’. Out came the Milo, marshmallows and Oreos. I know. Hubby was going a little sugar crazy – even for me.
8pm, and I’m ready for bed. Daddy is on story time and teeth brushing and all I can hear is the wind whistling. And the fridge humming. And crickets. I texted the family to see if anyone wanted to join us for a braai the following day. Because we love people, and things seemed awfully quiet.
Holiday had begun. And at 8:16pm with scattered wifi, no tv, series or movies, no washing to be folded, no dishes to be done, and no admin to be resolved I’m feeling a liiiitle uneasy. So I made myself useful and went inside to see how the kids were doing (not having confined bed spaces) aaaaand they were far too awake for my liking. I nursed our youngest to sleep, and convinced our toddler he didn’t need to bring his keyboard to bed. I think I’m a person who likes jobs. But then I get grumpy when I’m forced to do them.
Saturday: After a silent battle of Who-Would-Get-Up-First, hubby caved. I think it was because I’d done 90% of Bainskloof holiday planning and prep thus far. Good on him. Pancakes and coffee for breakfast.
Wind still loud. Like white noise, the background theme track to our little holiday.
We took a family walk to the river. An exercise in slowing down, simply from being outside but also from allowing the kids to set the pace (and direction). My darn iPhone has such a good camera it’s hard to leave it behind so the technology came with to capture the memories (aaargggg, will I ever get to a point where the memories are captured in my mind and not on my phone?). Last time we were here our youngest was still crawling. Time flies (when you’re too busy).
We tag-teamed naps (as you do with two small kids). Around 5pm, both kids weirdly descended into sleep – unprompted. The wind, was now HOWLING. We had warned any family thinking of joining us that the conditions weren’t ideal and that they might be better off staying home. And here’s where it got interesting. We were bored. Partly due to the lack of game packing (not on my checklist, argh) and partly due the fact that my hubby doesn’t love games, but mainly due to the howling gale force winds surrounding us and them spoiling our fun of sunset viewing and sitting around the fire with a glass of red. We sheltered ourselves in the kitchen sort of amazed at our lack of enthusiasm for, well, anything.
It struck me. How do we find a balance between the manic hustle and bustle of life (physically, but more mentally) and then sitting still? And finding joy, fulfillment and satisfaction in the quiet open spaces?
Clearly hubby and I were at a bit of a loss to the answer. The two extremes were jarring.
So, we read books and magazines (a rarity), listened to the wind and cooked food and drank wine. It morphed into chatting, and more chatting and a competition began as to who could make the best microwaved s’more (since there was no fire). Maybe that, in and of itself was helping us find the answer.
Sunday: Hubby was over the wind so we got up, made egg, bacon & cheese quesadillas, packed up, cleaned up and hit the road.
I found the packing and cleaning quite therapeutic. Maybe because it was unpressurized and not urgent, it felt almost respectful of the space. Maybe because I didn’t resent doing it, like I do with so much ‘picking up’ that comes with having kids. Maybe it was because we’d finally kicked into holiday mode good and proper – mere minutes from departure.
As we drove down the mountain, immediately the wind calmed. Typical. It was peaceful and warm and quiet. That morning we’d felt a little anxious to get moving because of the unpleasant wind, but once it had calmed, we were almost magnetically opposed to arriving home. We love home, but home meant lunch boxes needing to be filled and washing needing to be hung up and meals needing to be cooked and kids needing to moan about something. It meant sorting and tidying and cleaning and wishing we were not doing any of the above.
So we took a slow drive home and stopped at The Hollow Tree in Durbanville for a snacky lunch (chili poppers) and for the kids to play. And then we went home.
And just like that, we clicked back into normal life. That strange pace of life we encourage and feel important in, and discourage and feel overwhelmed in, at the same time. And then I saw this: a picture I’d taken of tiny slippers for tiny feet I adore with everything in me and knew we needed this more. We needed to spend hours packing the car, we needed to embrace the chaos of the trip, the grocery shopping, the overwhelming to-do lists, and maybe even that howling wind – to slow this (speed-of-light pace of the growth of our kids) down. To slow us all down.
Because next time we get away… I bet those little slippers wont be fitting anyone’s feet anymore.