10:19am, Saturday. Jemima is curled up in a ball pressed up against my leg, and I am propped up in bed with my laptop, a pile of books and a cup of coffee. Outside the air is a wet and cold 9 degrees, and I don’t have to be anywhere for at least the next few hours.
I’ve been back at work for over two months now, and my sabbatical feels like a hazy, distant dream. I have over a thousand photos, memories and experiences that I want to put into this space but somehow it’s just felt overwhelming. So I’ve decided to start small instead – a weekend away with Immy, in a Tiny House that we spotted a year ago and set our hearts on.
We loaded up the car with her bike, one small beat-up suitcase for both of us, and board games and books. An hour and a half after leaving the city, we arrived at our tiny house, and we couldn’t have loved it more.
We spent the night playing Clue and stoking our tiny wood stove fire with tiny chopped-up pieces of wood. This tiny house was hand built by the owners of the property, every piece of wood laid with love. We fell asleep tucked up in the loft, holding hands.
The next morning we woke up to to a tropical 4 degrees. We got the fire going, I made some coffee and we ventured outside. Immy – to her endless delight – met Bayliss, the owner’s dog. He had been quietly lying on the lawn outside, patiently waiting to play fetch. It was love at first sight.
I sipped my coffee and enjoyed the morning sun lighting up the autumn leaves and the smile on Immy’s face as she threw the drool-soaked piece of wood over and over, while Bayliss ran and slipped and skidded after it.
Eventually we headed out for our real adventure of the day, the Warburton Lilydale rail trail. After pancakes with bacon and maple syrup at The Cog Bike cafe, we set off under the blue sky for the 10km ride over bridges, through green pastures dotted with horses, hazy hills in the distance, yellow and orange leaves squelching under our tyres.
Our afternoon plan was to drive up the mountain to explore the lookout. Instead, we voted to stop for some snacks, and head back to our cozy place to play with the dog (her), sip some wine (me) and enjoy the last of the daylight before retreating for the night.
Our last morning dawned crisp and clear. It was with a heavy heart that Immy said goodbye to Bayliss, extracting a promise from me that we would come back again. After a final play, and a final tiny fire and hot coffee sitting on the steps in the sun, we headed out. On the way home I surprised her with a trip to the beautiful but humble Warburton Redwood forest, where we played hide and seek, climbed into life-size branch sculptures and looked up up up at the trees.
She’s been talking about her birthday, about the type of party she’d like and the gifts on her list. Currently, her list comprises an iPad, a hair mannequin and two Shopkins Li’l Secrets to add to her collection. It’s a reflection of where we’re at right now – straddling the line between little girl and tween. The trade-off between the two. Fewer baby snuggles – instead, more laughter at jokes mutually shared and understood. Fewer fat-belly kisses – instead, a lean, strong, gymnast body in the making. Still as likely to make sparkly slime as she is to make marble-dipped nails to show off to her friends.
This year has stretched Immy, pulled her toward growth and unfamiliar experiences. She’s participating competitively in gymnastics, taking her first steps in a world where not everyone is a winner and you don’t get a medal for participating. It’s a tough lesson, and we’re using the opportunity to talk about what being HER best means. That it’s so important to be the best, most authentic version of herself that she can be, and that the medals and the ribbons don’t have anything to do with that. And that sometimes we fall, or fail, or both, but that getting up and trying again is the important part.
Have a great week, from Immy and her pal Bayliss.