Every night before bed, I tell Sophie stories of our day, trying to ease her way to sleep, trying to set a tradition that she may follow later, when I hope she’ll tell me her own stories. Maybe I’m creating a future blogger. She’s just started to get enough language that she can participate in these stories, repeating the details she likes.
This was our story of this weekend.
Me: We got in a car, a red car, and the car had a roof that went up and down. You pushed the button to move the roof on and off.
Sophie: Sophie did it! Car roof.
Me: Yes, Sophie did the car roof. Then we drove and drove. We passed cows and horses and sheep. You slept. And then we got to the Peak District and went walking. We walked over stones over a river. We walked past flowers with bees. We looked at birds.
Me: Yes, we looked for ladybugs, but we didn’t find any. We found caves. We found puddles, and you were wearing your boots, so you could jump in the puddles. We saw a man climbing a rock.
Sophie: Man up! Hat boo-boo.
Me: Yes, he wore a hat to protect his head, to keep him from getting any boo-boos.
And so on. What Sophie remembers from the weekend is extraordinary.
We stayed in a castle in a tiny town in the Peak District, a castle that’s now a hostel. Sophie quite quickly learned the way from the tea-room to the toilet to the Italian garden to the spiral staircase to the tree around which she kicked her ball to the field where the sheep grazed, to the kitchen where a kind lady gave her milk when she woke up long before breakfast-time.
Sophie wasn’t much interested in the old church on this giant estate, but she did relish the ladder on the hostel bunk-beds. We had a private room of 2 bunk-beds. We put her in a bottom bunk and piled pillows and blankets all around, and although I worried all night, she didn’t fall down.
It wasn’t a castle, exactly: I don’t think any royalty ever lived there. More like a large country estate, made of stone, full of gothic details, sold to an antiquities dealer in the 1930s, who gutted a portion of it and then re-sold it to the national trust, who made it into a hostel, brilliantly. The front ball-room is now the hostel game-room. The back stretches out in other buildings, barns and kitchens and I-don’t-know what, each now a hostel bedroom. The gardens went on and on. It was a terrific place to take a baby on vacation.
When Sophie was overly-energetic before bed, we took her walking along the river, to another field, to look at the sheep going to sleep, and that’s what she talks about most from our weekend: the sheep went to sleep. We walked home through a darkening wood as bunnies hopped across our paths. We walked a lot all weekend. Sophie is getting almost too heavy for her sling, and annoyingly clingy to me, preferring to have me carry her 90% of the time, so Ben can’t give me a break. Fortunately, Ben takes better photos than me, so he carries the camera, and I need to get better arm-muscles anyway, so I carry Sophie – but, still, that part of the weekend was tiring. On Saturday, we hiked more than 3 miles with Sophie, and then at nap-time, when Ben sat with her so I could go walking without her, I felt so liberatingly light.
On Sunday, we went to a historic steam railway that thrilled Ben. For all his coolness, Ben is also a nerdy railway-buff. Sophie loved the choo-choo too, catching her Dad’s excitement. On the way home, she managed to spill a lot of water on herself, making for a sobbing nerve-wracking car-ride – but still, we had a red convertible Mini Cooper, and we were driving home from a weekend in a British castle in the kind of gorgeous countryside that features sheep on the roads.