When the school notified us that there would be a four-and-a-half day weekend on our hands I notified Chup that I wasn't sticking around.
"I can't be here for four-and-a-half days with six beings all severely suffering from cabin fever. I need sunshine."
So we took it to Southern Utah where my brother Steve lives with his wife Suze and four children.
We romped short-sleevedly, swam in the indoor pool and sucked our faces full of sun. One night, after stuffing our innards with Poncho and Lefty's Mexican revival we came home to a night full of stars.
"Look at those twinkly things." Ollie said pointing at the gem-filled night with his Alvin Chipmunk voice.
It had been so long since we'd seen the earth doused in evening that the stars had become wonders again.
Grateful to Ollie for pointing them out, I stared a while at them while everyone else headed inside. It was good to feel small, to look out and realize that while my life can seem so big and complex, there are far bigger and more complex systems that rule this universe.
Thank heavens for that.
Chup and I were feeling adventurous so an afternoon was spent hiking around Zion National Park, attempting some of my favorite trails and bouncing The Chief through the patches of sunny spots. We worked our way into a buddy system: Claire and Maggie, Alex and Ollie, Emily and Jane holding hands wondering about in red rocks and emerald pools. We went through the modern miracle of the Zion tunnel and talked about red-ifying abilities of iron. Iron and the tunnel seemed to be everyone's favorite intrigue.
Around noon we headed to the lodge for lunch. About six grilled cheeses were ordered and a couple adult menu items as well. The food wasn't worth swooning about, but my glass of water tasted like eternal life. I would go again just for the cold cup of aqua from Zion's canyon well.
As we ate I noticed a threesome in the corner talking and staring at us. Had I no manners, I would have spent the afternoon talking and staring at them. They looked as though they had walked out of a Twisted Sister music video into the Zion Lodge Restaurant. One of the characters didn't spell out a gender. Oddest thing I have seen since my last trip to Vegas.
When all the sandwiches had been consumed, with crust left for the birds, we started to pack up our table of seven children. I circled the table wobbling The Chief side-to-side making sure that all coats, shoes and salty rocks had been gathered. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the characters approaching our table. I braced myself.
He first went to sixteen-year-old Alex.
"Are you the person responsible for this group?"
And Alex sat dumbfounded because Alex wasn't alive in the '80s.
It is rather appalling.
"It is rare that you go to a restaurant with a big table of children and not even notice them." His hands were on Alex's shoulders as Alex sat stone still, the rest of the children also frozen, wondering what planet. . . .
"We were all so impressed by your manners, we wanted to give you some money so you can go get a treat." Then he handed a bill of some variety to Alex.
Chup and I equally stuttered a thank you.
The Gender-less was heard saying, "Really, you two should get an award."
Who Chup and I?
For a split second I really thought about what it would've been like to actually birth all seven of these children. I would've started at fourteen with Alex, and continued on year-after-year until last May for The Chief. Though Chup's age could compute (he would've been twenty-three) I would've been a mighty young bride and Chup would be in jail. I couldn't let them think we were so honorific.
"Only one is ours, actually." I admitted.
The manners weren't ours either to take credit for, though I wish I we could. Who wouldn't love a table full of quiet, grilled cheese-eating children?
But the threesome was already clapping for the Mr. and I so we took a bow, and headed back out to the offerings of the canyon's warm air. Soon the girls were cartwheeling, the teens were playing with their phones and The Chief bounced up-and-down on my lap. Here was sunshine, in all of its varieties.
Oh. . .
The going rate for well-behaved children is five bucks.
Enough for seven ice cream cones.