These girls run in a pack.
They howl at the moon, watch for northern lights, and hope for shooting stars. They journey to mountain tops, forage in tide pools, and play in the snow. When the pack starts to get sleepy, they wrestle until they doze off together, arms and legs all a-tangle.
Neva and Calla are seven, and Lacey is five. I forget how young they are, and how small their physical selves are, because all three of them have big personalities. It’s hard to say if one of them is the alpha wolf; I don’t think so. I’ve known them since they were tiny, but usually have only spent time with them as individuals. This week, I got to know them as a pack.
My birthday was on Monday, and we had a bonfire on the beach. The girls ran around the fringes of the adult pack, doing their wild-girl things, while the party got going. After dark they approached me and asked if they could use the bathroom in my house. We all climbed the stairs and walked the boardwalk to the Shack. Inside, we took off our boots and left them by the door, and while Neva was in the bathroom, Calla and Lacey took a look around. “My mom wrote that book,” said Lacey, pointing at a children’s book on my bookshelf. “Yep, and your auntie made all the pictures for it, isn’t that cool?” I said. Calla asked, “What’s that?” and pointed at an object on the shelf by the book. “It’s a striker for the drum – see it? That round thing?” I reached up and took the drum from its spot on the wall. “I made it at Culture Camp a couple of years ago,” I said, handing it to Calla. She immediately sat on the couch and sang “Doe, a Deer” from The Sound of Music, banging in time to the words.
Meanwhile, Lacey was still looking around; she’s the quiet observer, maybe the scout of the pack. When Neva came out of the bathroom, Calla took her turn. Neva, who had been in the Shack before, asked, “What’s up there?” and pointed to the ship’s ladder that leads to a hatch in the ceiling. She knew very well what was up there, but I pretended she didn’t, and said, “That’s where I sleep.” I could guess what was coming next. Sure enough: “Can we go up there?” asked Neva. “I don’t see why not,” I shrugged. This was my party, and I’d abandon it if I wanted to. Not so often do I get the honor of hangin’ with the wolf pack.
All four of us climbed the ladder, which took courage on Neva’s part because she was in the lead and there were no lights on in the loft. But soon we were all upstairs, in the small space which is mostly filled by a double bed. Neva asked if I’d close the hatch cover so she would feel safe.
The loft’s ceiling is covered with dark blue fabric. Glow-in-the-dark stars and planets spill out across the expanse, constellations and spiral galaxies reaching to infinity. We turned “the sun” (a bedside lamp) on and off, re-charging the stars when they dimmed. The wolf pack howled at the starry sky. I howled, too.
I don’t really know how long we were up there, but long enough for me to make a return trip to the fireside potluck for provisions for my pups. I ignored all the adults while I was on my foray, and caught some pasta salad and chocolate brownies, which I brought back to the den. The pups whimpered their thanks, wagged their tails, and pounced on the food.
It didn’t last much longer. The grown-up human part of me wanted to go back to the party, the firelight, the warmth of adult company. And I suspected that the wolf girls’ true moms might be starting to wonder what had happened to the pack. So I suggested we climb back down, put on our boots, and go back out into the night.
For the rest of the evening the wolf pups wanted to return to the den; that strange place of magic, half cave, half starry sky. We were powerful there. The pack was strong. We were innocent and joyous, smart and brave.
Standing by the fire, a beer in my hand, I visited with friends. The wolf girls orbited around me, one goal fixed in their wolf pup minds. They kept asking to go back, and I kept saying no. I wanted to hang out by the fire, with the grown-ups.
But if I’m totally honest, I must say that I wanted to go back to the den, too.