I didn't realize how much stress I was under during the last two months of my masters classes until the day after they were over. After I got through that brief letdown over the focus of my advanced degree, I was giddy, literally dancing and singing around the house at random moments throughout the weekend. There was never any conscious thought toward celebration, it just came and it wasn't until late in the day Saturday that I even realized that I was doing anything differently. It was kind of nice when Little Gandhi asked me to play trains with him and said, "You don't have classes anymore. You can play with me all day!" I even got up with the turd early on Sunday so my wife could sleep in, a rare treat for her given the little guy's typical insistence that she be the one accompanying him for breakfast.
After she finally got up, we filled a day pack for a picnic and set out for Moody Natural Area, a Nature Conservancy property not too far from our house for a short hike. We took Tavia's Trail, a three-mile loop previously call the Upland Loop (trailhead: 31°54'24.21"N, 82°18'45.16"W). I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. We got out the door a little later than I planned and knew we were going to be plunging dangerously far into Little Gandhi's typical nap time. He's generally a sweet child and can be a joy to be around, but if he gets tired everything changes. He could easily ruin the entire experience if we weren't careful.
He didn't. This ended up being the focus point in one of those days that reminded me that even though my life may not have gone the way I had always dreamed, it's most definitely one that I don't want to give up. The kid was amazing, soaking up facts, running through meadows looking for gopher tortoise dens and asking questions about everything. He even dropped a stunningly sophisticated explanation about how vitamin D was made while we ate lunch. I don't know if I've been as genuinely happy as I have been hiking through the longleaf pine prairies and the cypress and tupelo bottomlands in a long while. My wife couldn't have given me a better gift than just showing up yesterday and I'm still glowing and a little giggly just thinking about it. Hopefully for her it made up for at least a little of the neglect and grumpiness she's had to deal with out of me for the last couple of months.