The idea saw daylight several years ago; take the grandkids to explore the National Parks of the USA. Last year we said, "Next year!" Gradually over months we laid out a route, made reservations, created and checked off lists. Today the grandsons drove in from Puyallup; in two days the granddaughters fly in from Mandan. The tent is setup with the present two giggling in lieu of sleeping.
Foods are in the freezer and bags in the hallway. Undies and swimsuits are packed. The names of the first seen animals are listed in the new journals: a salamander from our pond, a deer who trotted along side the car as we returned from an outing, nine California quail scurrying in and out of the blackberries in the ditch, wild turkeys mingled among domestic chicken stealing their food, and a chicken vulture circling the raccoon that is no longer killing and eating our chickens and peafowl.
The Fourth is free of obligations and will be celebratory with all the packing complete. The Fifth, on the other hand, is packed with final preparation: get the rental van, pack the van, meet the girls at PDX, have a pre-trip family reckoning, water the plants, mow the lawn, fill the chicken water barrel. And get a last sleep in a bed. At least for the next two weeks.
Did I mention that the boys got a bucket of water from the pond which they poured down the child's slide as a water slide for Sally, the salamander? They thought it was great fun for them and didn't consider if it was fun for Sally.
And so it begins.