A Smoothie

i waited for you but you were already here

A Smoothie
Children’s memories are incredible. As we drive out to the beach today they both tell me about the walks, the bike rides, the times we stopped for a trail hike or ate at a restaurant. I have the same memories, of course; but theirs seem so vivid, and they are obviously so fond retelling these events. Their affection for our beaches and our trails is humbling, too; these are places that Ralph and I selected, in effect building so much of their childhood. We don’t program our children like blank tapes but we do influence them so much.

It is sunny and warm – seventy degrees. We arrive to park and no one is near; we can see a few distant sea-gazers on the far-off overlook tower. The oldest child made and packed our lunch – hoagie sandwiches with red leaf lettuce and pickles and vegan lunchmeats and cheese, a side of chips. The dog is perched back of the Jimmy – excited, his expression absolutely jovial and alert. He can’t believe his luck! Once we lock the car and head to the jetty we are disturbed to discover he is finally too old to leap up the rocks and climp over into the hidden sandy beach. He tries many times, valiantly; but his agility is not there. We walk him a bit, then tie up him with a good deal of water, and leave him for a bit. My heart hurts to leave him behind; I also know it is better to have brought him than not at all.

Tide Pools
Today on social media – in a parent support group – I read parents complaining about their teen children, calling teens “assholes”, discussing whether a preteen child was old enough to decide ____ for herself. It hurt my heart; I closed my laptop. I wonder to myself how I avoided this fate, of feeling I was doing my children some kind of favor to care for them.

My children aren’t perfect; just last night one of them had a verbally violent outburst and today tempers are still tender. The child and I have a short conversation in the car today and I tell them that everyone has outbursts; no one in this family is judging, and we need to keep the family safe.

I ask if they know what set them off – were they worried about ___, were they feeling resentment toward ___? They tell me, “I have been asking myself the same thing,” and I am thinking: Job well done. I let them know that sometimes we don’t know why we lash out, and it’s okay not to know for a while. But by the same token, they also need to step back and reflect; it is their responsibility to figure it out. And there is always help available. It’s a conversation we have with our kids; keep it as short as possible, keep it thoughtful. Make sure to center myself first; and if possible discuss the issue after I’ve rested, meditated, and talked with my partner.

Because our dog party member is down for the count, we don’t stay at the beach very long today; long enough to find starfish, and chiton, and little snails and little crabs and large isopods. We stop on our way out of town at a coffee shop for tea lattes, and then home to Ralph who is cleaning the house and preparing dinner.

Before bed my eldest comes to be held and I kiss the top of their fuzzy shaved head; they still smell like the sea. They are soft and warm and content, that we had a day together, playing like children.

“come downstairs & bring popsackles”

A cardboard box filled with kraft paper; I remove gifts, setting them on the counter. Wrapped in tissue: findings from another sea. Teas, candied ginger. A paper-wrapped parcel of fine chocolate. Two bolts of sumptuous flannel fabric – a pea green plaid, a yellow plaid. Set aside and I run my hands over them each; fine robes for Christmas.

A wooden box, masterfully if plainly constructed, with a fire-branded logo. A note. And opening the box: a plastic shark. I recognize it as nearly identical to the one my children used to play with in the bath.

Then when I call my brother – to thank him and his wife, for the package – he laughs about the shark. “Do you recognize it?” I am confused for a moment. He can’t mean my children’s toy, as he never gave them baths and wasn’t there when they were small.

He says, “It’s just like the one I gave you a black eye with!” He is gleeful.

I am thinking, Oh that’s right. A childhood fight – we were still living in the bus, so I was seven years old or younger. I am set back for a moment. I am blinking at the road ahead, the phone on speaker in my lap.

What I say is: “That’s the only black eye I’ve ever had.” But now I’m thinking of a man who beat me. He never gave me a black eye. I think when you’ve been terrorized it can come to you, visit at any time. On a sunny day, in a lighthearted laugh with your brother.

The shark is now installed in my bathroom, hovering above the glass bar lighting fixture. I cooked and cleaned today, instead of leaving it for my children and spouse. I am coming out of a state of living where I was caring for the children, the home. We are moving and growing; I am working more, and the children are learning how to run a home. They are willing participants, and they are strong.

Yesterday they waited at a bus stop and went to the dentist. The children were gloomy; I woke them up and scolded them when they did not do housework quickly enough. We sat in the living room and we talked about the challenges in the household now that I work. The children listened, and ate the simple breakfast I made – creamed wheat, coconut oil, brown sugar. They put the dishes in the sink and I cleaned the kitchen after they left, then moved to the studio to finish my work.

After their appointments, my mother returned them home – food in hand, of course. They quite circumspectly did not eat hot foods for a couple hours, as the hygienist warned them off. Once they were home we piled in the car and off to the beach; meeting with a new friend who was visiting from inland. I realized well into the meeting that I hadn’t taken a break for quite some time.

After a coffee date, we two women and our four children climbed the jetty down to a little partitioned beach. We showed the visiting girls the tidepools: anemone, barnacles, limpets, chitons, starfish – and the little crabs under any rock you overturn. Every size – from a pinhead to a few inches across, and every manner of color: white, blues, greens, deep purples. The anenomes we instructed – you could touch them. Be gentle! They are gentle to you.

I know I live in a beautiful place. I never forget it. But I don’t often see it as it can be seen to visitors. That itself, was quite a blessing.

at Bottle Beach

At Bottle Beach

At Bottle Beach

At Bottle Beach

Just one of those places I’ve lived near many many years, but had not yet visited – until today.

Our dog went mad with joy – again. He has missed being able to go for long, athletic walks. He crunched what I can only assume were crab shells. I am now closing my eyes and letting my head drop back and breathing out through my nose. He is ridiculous.

At Bottle Beach

This is my last weekend with my daughter before school. I am having All The Feels. She is growing up very fast and when she was younger I worried too much and therefore squandered a lot that I might have otherwise lived fully.

All I can do is live today, and not look back.

On that note –

I’m going to go downstairs and get ready for bed, then let her wrap her arms around me and her sweet voice say whatever it wants to say.

unattended children deserve to be cast into a pit of fire motherfucker, but in the meantime:

Today I had access to my mom’s van (while Ralph braved our local transit to get to work) and I made sure to get us out on another beach roadtrip. This time: Westport and Grayland. Only a few minutes post-breakfast (dining in the car) we first stopped at a taffy shop (with no less than three variations of those douchey “unnattended children will be placed on hooks and tortured” signs, and not that there’s any excuse for that crap, but I want to note we’re talking a candy shop in a tourist town, SMH). That, plus a few patriotic clownhorn bumper stickers, put me off any confectionary I was eyeing, but my kids didn’t seem to mind the sign asshattery; the very kind lady behind the counter made a half-apologetic reference, and anyway it’s the kiddos’ dime and I decided not to give into despair.

Fortunately the rest of Westport, which has a working class/touristy/carny/beachy/tumbleweed-&-shuttered-winders thing going, was quite hospitable. Particularly the outdoors, which the kids evidence an unabashed joy for no matter where we find ourselves. Today we ran around the floats (boat workers and fishermen in general welcome kid presence, probably because they have their own who are highly participatory in their family tradition), bought some smoked tuna for my mother off Float 8, climbed rocks and beachcombed and explored, then eventually the children chose their restaurant of choice, and raved about the food.

Gangplank

Horizons

Wet Sea Grass...

& Dry Creepy Sea Grass Muppet Monster

Contemplation

Hop!

I <3 My Dad

Snap, Step, Bump!

Alien Invasion!

Phoenix provided me with a small heartache, reminding me of my late maternal grandmother today, mostly in physical appearance. Her long, increasingly blonding hair (a yearly event with the advent of seasonal sunshine), the masculine-styling wool car coat, a simple pair of good corduroys. And she’s about as tall as my grandma was too, and I have many beach memories of that woman.

But today we built more memories of our own. Nothing fancy, just a lovely trip, and some sunshine, and the sea crashing in my ears. I wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to live away from it?

 

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