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Turkey Season

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The family in the badlands

As reassurance throughout this parenting journey, we’re often told everything is a “season.” That whatever challenges we’re in the thick of are only temporary. And simultaneously, the little joys are also temporary – the full-body smiles, the chunky baby thighs, and the ability to solve most of his problems with feeding or shushing.

I’m no stranger to using seasons to mark time. In fact, doesn’t it sometimes seem like the anticipation of whatever upcoming hunting or fishing season is often greater than when it arrives?

All I can remember is perfect golden hour points over native grouse and well-placed shots, tip-up flags flying over a frozen lake and mornings full of yelps and gobbles.

Cayla turkey hunting in the badlands

Yet, when the season comes back around, reality usually sets in that I’ve been selectively reminiscing. I have a hunch the same will be true with this kid thing.

Right now, it’s turkey season. A time that used to consume our household, barely unpacking between weekends of camping in western North Dakota, decoys crowding the garage and the smell of fresh-baked cookies filling the house on Thursday nights, fuel for the many miles and chilly nights to follow.

Exhaustion from 3 a.m. alarms carried well into the week as did the daydreams of being back out there in a few days.

Things undoubtedly look a little different this turkey season.

The tent is piled in the gear room beneath ice fishing bibs, yet to make its maiden voyage this spring.

Thursday nights look just like Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – dinner, stroller walk, bath, bottle, story and bedtime.

The exhaustion however remains familiar, a singular 3 a.m. alarm seems like a cake walk these days. I think during this season, it is the monotony that is the most difficult for me. A stark contrast to life before Fisch.

Baby in motel room

But much like turkey hunting, there are highs and lows. I can swear from frustration as I throw the covers off because he’s squawked from his crib for the third time in a night, only to instantly forgive him when he innocently smiles up at me.

I can be in tears from a day’s worth of short naps and resulting unproductivity, but the fresh bath hair and dinosaur jammies get me every time.

Of course, Grandma couldn’t let me go a whole turkey season without at least trying to fill my tag. So, we loaded the truck, Fischer’s pack and play, bathtub, and other assorted gear taking up nearly the same amount of room as our decoys and hunting totes. We settled for a cozy motel, which in some ways I wasn’t so upset about.

My mornings were measured not by my persistence, but instead by how many bottles were left behind. In fact, a mere 20 yards stood between me and harvesting a turkey with breast pumps on.

Unfortunately, my tag was left unfilled. But it was refreshing to watch the sunrise again, meet my daily step count goal, and if but for a few hours, get lost in the pursuit.

Even so, when things fell silent, as my eyes fluttered as I leaned against a tree, my thoughts often drifted to Fisch. It’s funny how I can long so much to be here, outdoors and in this moment, only to miss my little boy when I am.

Sitting photographer looking out over the badlands