The Family Vacation
They are staying in this house in the mountains with her family for a week. The air here feels crisp and fresh and light against her skin. The boys wake her up early in the mornings. The youngest one is sleeping in the room with her, and she can feel his hands pulling at the sheets of her bed when the stars are still out. She tries to get him to go back to sleep, but she thinks it is a game and pulls harder at the sheets until she gets up and brings him into bed with her. He runs his hands over face and squishes her eyes and tries to put his fingers in her nose and mouth. Her oldest one comes down the stairs as soon as he hears her open her door. She lets the boys watch cartoons while she lays down on the floor, her eyes raw. They snack on breakfast bars until everyone else gets up and then they eat breakfast from everyone else’s bowls.
They hike during the day and eat dinner in big wooden chairs on the deck, using their fingers as utensils. If the boys' nap, it's in the car and they wake up cranky and uncomfortable, kicking the backs of the seats. Her youngest discovered her mom’s phone and plays “Wheels on the Bus” over and over again until she hears it in her dreams. At night, moths litter the windows and both her boys press their noses against the glass and tap their fingers against it. They watch as the moths scatter and regroup on the other side. Her parents give them cookies and they wipe their hands across the couches that are not theirs. After the boys go to bed, her family plays board games and her oldest stays awake, listening at the door of his room. They all drink wine and laugh and she can hear her oldest laughing like his is a part of everything.
Her husband is back at home and they Facetime him every day. The boys run away whenever she tries to make them say hello, and she can tell her husband is disappointed to be missing out. She usually corners the youngest one and makes him blow kisses at the phone. Then, she tells her husband that they are having fun, but they miss him. He is the one who has the energy to match their sons’, the ability to diffuse situations with their oldest. She misses the warmth of his palm against her back when she says something that makes him laugh. He is the one who makes her coffee and lets her sleep in and reminds her to bring snacks for herself as well as for the boys.
One day, her oldest finds a stack of board games in his bedroom, and he empties every single box into a pile so that he can look at the pieces. He refuses to pick them up and she can feel her voice getting harder and sharper until she walks away, and he screams at her to come back and help him. That night, her dad grills pork chops and she mashes potatoes while her mom plays with the boys. They eat on the deck as the sun goes down. They grab jackets and blankets and sit there until night wraps itself around the mountains and all they can see are the stars above them. Her youngest curls into her lap and she covers them both in a blanket; he falls asleep against her chest. Her oldest stares at the stars and holds out his palms, trying to catch one. His hair is haloed by the starlight and she remembers how when the doctor first handed him to her, he stared into her eyes like he was memorizing her soul.