Last week we went on an ‘escape-away’ to Somerset. Four days away from our lives, and our first family break without Evalyn. I was always going to have mixed emotions. A small part of me wondered if it was too soon to try a family holiday. I mean, how could I possibly even contemplate being normal and having fun without Evalyn? But the other part of me thought you NEED this. You NEED to escape.
It was a last minute booking. We weren’t planning on going away until the summer. But the past few weeks have been hard; full of pregnancy announcements, new baby announcements and our daily struggle to fight through our grief. I found myself pleading with Nick one night that we just HAD to get away. Not so much a holiday . . more of an ‘escape-away’. For four days, let’s just take a vacation from our problems. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t need much convincing.
“I want to go to a cabin in the woods,” Ieuan said, jumping around the room excitedly, “And I want to be able to play football and ride my scooter and go swimming.”
Ieuan’s holiday check-list was far easier to meet than I expected. A quick internet search and a few phone calls later, we were booked to stay in Cheddar, home of the beautiful Cheddar Gorge, breathtaking caves and the town where Cheddar cheese originated from and got it’s namesake.
There was a small part of me that ached as we loaded up the car. I’d imagined that our first holiday this year would be as a family of four, that trying to fit everything in the car would be a bit like a challenging jigsaw puzzle. I don’t know how to fit the pram in, Nick would’ve said, our baby’s got more stuff than us! I would’ve stood watching with Ieuan and Evalyn as Nick struggled and we all would’ve laughed. Instead, I sat in the front seat as we pulled away from the driveway and told myself that this would be a nice break away.
Our cabin was beautiful. Set into the the hills and the woodland, it was remote and it was quiet and I started my days and ended my days sitting out on the decking. We were blessed with sun and it somehow soothed me as I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of nature that surrounded us.
We spent our days going on adventures. We visited the famous caves and explored the little town of Cheddar and sampled some of it’s finest cheeses (which was hard to avoid as they’d managed to somehow include it in every dish at every restaurant and cafe). We went on long walks with Yogi the pug and we went swimming with Ieuan who bravely dipped his head under the water for the first time ever!
“Mum! I swam under water! Did you see?”
A head dip isn’t quite swimming under water, but I was proud of him all the same and he was proud of himself. I loved spending time with him. Before we went for dinner in the evenings, we would all play on the green outside of our cabin. We played football, frisbee and had races on Ieuan’s scooter (which involved Ieuan scootering at full speed as we desperately tried to keep up with him).
We let him stay up late and when he was snuggled up in bed after a long, exhausting day, Nick would make up a story and Ieuan would help him to finish it. I sat there with a little smile on my face. A happy smile, yes. But tinged with a little sadness too.
The first time away without Evalyn was always going to be a time for contemplation. I saw many families having fun and , to an outsider, we would’ve looked like a picture perfect postcard of a ‘family holiday’. We spoke alot about Evalyn. She was there in our thoughts through every hour, day and night. Ieuan brought his little ‘Ela-bear’ teddy with him and cuddled up to her at night.
I’m glad we went away. We needed it and I have come home feeling a little bit more refreshed. Nick will hopefully feel a bit lighter when he heads into work next week and Ieuan has new holiday stories to tell all of his friends – Yogi’s just happy to not spend the week being dragged up steep woodland hills!
Caves, cheese and contemplation – that’s what this week has been about. I even enjoyed not having any phone signal and just being one with my family and our little world. It gave us a chance to try and start breathing again. There were moments when I reached for my camera not wanting to forget the smiles on my familes faces and there were moments when I couldn’t quite muster up a smile at all.
But we did smile.
We did laugh.
And we did have fun.
As we get used to living our ‘new normal’, that’s a pretty good start.