When we were little, my brother used to run away from home. It was generally due to some impending trouble he was about to get in to, because of some trouble he had just caused. Like putting silicon spray on the floor before my Nana came to visit. I think he had Risky Business sock slidin’ in mind. Most of the time he could be found down the end of our cul-de-sac street and could be easily persuaded back home by Dad, who pointed out the holes in his plans : “Have you ever heard possums screeching in the night, son?” “We’re having Neopolitan ice cream for dessert…” etc.
This past weekend we were staring down a menacing gathering of “shoulds”. Should weed the garden, should sort out the spare room, should do this or that. Almost simultaneously, Matt and I looked at one another and suggested we run away instead. Yes!! Plans were cancelled, “shoulds” were given the middle finger, accommodation was booked, road trip snacks were packed. We were off…
Driving through the green Waikato we dished out snack after snack and adjudicated argument after argument. A big piece of flax was picked up at one rest stop, waved jauntily around the back seat, shoved into a sister’s eye and confiscated forthwith. Tantrums, tears and giggles abounded. B2 worried whether the place we were staying had beds or fridges or blankets or food (“Call child welfare services, my parents are negligent and are taking me into the wilderness”) Kids urgently needed go to the toilet ten minutes after leaving a toilet. We listened to Gobbolino the Witches Cat on audio book and ooh-ed at cute calves gathered together in brown-fur puddles in fields. Eventually we made it to Waitomo, home of the mighty glow-worm caves, and checked in to our accommodation.
Kids were delighted by our lichen-fringed cabin at Te Tiro, which has an incredible view of surrounding forest and fields. Plus: loft beds! Our hosts, Rachel and Angus, were so kind – leaving us torches to check out the glow worm grotto on their land, only a two minute wander into the bush, and promising the kids they could bottle feed the newborn lambs at dinnertime. After identifying all the flowers around – springy carpets of bee-covered manuka, kowhai strung with yellow blossom earrings, rhodendrons and fat azaleas – and the girls collecting dozens of “specimens” to decorate the cabin windowsill we finally rushed off to the big glow worm caves. These were as stunning as I had remembered them. “Like stars!” B2 described, though it’s hard for any description to do the experience justice. If anything, being in the caves under the glowworms, is like being in the stars, tiny blueish ones all around, winking and wriggling and twinkling. Wow. We bought the overpriced merchandise.
That night there wasn’t much sleep going on and morning did roll around (too) fast when B2 decided to wake up, full of beans, before dawn. Still, we saw the sun rise through the thick mist and got to check out the handiwork of the resident spider, who had made plenty of killings in the night. Breakfast: fresh strawberries and cereal and yoghurt with a, um, large caffeinated beverage for the grownups. There was time for a last frolic with the bouncy lambs, a discarding of the row of browning flowers on the windowsill and a pat / chase of “Ratbag” the endearing but minimally friendly, patchwork tabby cat.
We drove home via Cambridge, through it’s pretty tree-lined streets with a quick side visit to the local museum. Yes, I was the only person who wanted to visit. Yes, we aced the Natural History Quiz and won ourselves some badges. Yes, I did an Elaine dance. In my mind. Moving on… More cows. So many lambs. A detour to the grand Woodland Estate, where I used to waitress for weddings and for the kids to climb trees with pink blossoms and ruin the lawns by making grass angels. Home again, home again, jiggedy jig, in time for grocery shopping, school lunch making, negotiating over hair washing, and dealing to a few pesky “shoulds” that weren’t taking too kindly to being left at home.
I would love to be this family and taking much bigger, scarier adventures, but for now weekend escapes will have to do. Our one-night-runaway wasn’t glamourous or dangerous but it was still thrilling, at least for us, mainly because we were largely winging it, because it hadn’t been planned in advance. Because it was such a short trip I didn’t feel guilty for the places and attractions we didn’t see, there simply wasn’t time. And I didn’t worry about the lack of sleep or the kids nutrition or any of that other vital parenting stuff. We just went, saw and conquered and came home to one load of laundry and fifteen minutes worth of unpacking. Which gives one-night-runaways a big fat gold star in my book.