It’s deep dusk, shadows turning into night, but I can still see his face beside me.
Corn fields give way to trees and back again, cows are dotted on occasional pastures; the highway runs straight through, rising and falling a bit with the hills. The Pirates game plays out on the radio. When he glances my way and sees me looking, he smiles – a smile that reaches his eyes and opens into his soul and I can see him; school isn’t there.
I’m so tired now I can barely hold my eyelids open, and I feel the sun on my cheekbones and the heaviness of my feet and every part of me has gone limp, sinking into the bucket seat as miles roll by and someone hits a home run on the radio.
“I realized at lunch, I hadn’t thought about qualifiers all day, then I realized I was thinking about them right then,” he says, and laughs.
But for one day in the middle of the week, school and work and remodeling the house and the Waterloo of a test at the end of August, it all receded a bit on the water slides and roller coasters on the edge of Lake Erie.
I won tickets to Waldameer at work, and they sat pinned to the small bulletin board in the kitchen for weeks. But with a Wednesday off, we finally decided to make the two-and-a-half hour drive north to Erie, stopping in Butler to join with family.
Going during the week is, of course, perfect; lines are short enough to move fairly quickly from one to the other, and we snagged several picnic tables under the trees for lunch.
The weather, too, was perfect; warm in the sun but a cool breeze coming off the lake kept us from overheating.
For three hours we tried tube slides, twisty slides, fast-down slides that take your breath away. And he who avoids risks like the plague came up laughing, and I watched the days wash away and school wash away and the boy he was come gasping up to the surface.
I rode the big roller coaster after lunch, the shaking and jarring slamming my teeth together, then a spinning wheel with his sister while she laughed and talked and laughed out loud the entire time, her thin body slammed against mine by the force of it.
I fell asleep on the way home, though I tried so hard to fight it. I fell asleep as we passed into borough limits, just blocks from our small house.
Today life is back again, with our stresses and our work and all the responsibilities that come with adulthood, home ownership. And I’m still tired from yesterday’s hours in the sun, and my garden needs weeding and house needs cleaning and I really could have used that day off for chores.
But I hadn’t realized how much we needed to get away until we left.
Sometimes one day is all you need.