Tuesday, September 26, 2017

One Morning in Gloucester

I can't help feeling as if a lot of the summer passed us by; knee-deep in baby mode and just trying to make a reasonable number of naps happen at reasonable times, I wasn't exactly taking the kids out on exciting excursions every day.

Something about fall arriving, and with it my work schedule picking up significantly, has actually helped us find a bit of a rhythm to our days again.  I was pretty anxious about how I'd manage everything ahead of time, as I was working to schedule all my teaching and freelancing work for the year; but I guess if there's an upside to having a sort of anxiety attack and completely freaking out and melting down about how in the world you're going to survive life and keep juggling all the things you're juggling, it's this: the reality is rarely as bad as your absolute worst fears and imaginations.  Even with needing to make completely last-minute arrangements for childcare during all my working hours, we've been managing to piece things together and getting through each day.

And while there really aren't enough hours in each day, I do find that knowing I'll be working in the afternoons Monday through Thursday helps me prioritize my morning hours better.  And needing to keep to my work schedule helps me schedule in other things in advance a little better too; instead of waiting to see what I feel able to accomplish in a given day {probably nothing, let's be honest}, if I plan things ahead I find that I can actually do them sometimes!

While I may sometimes wish I could be working less, I'm also getting to enjoy a lot of good things in life.

This morning I took the girls to a beach in Gloucester to enjoy the 80 degree September day.

The day was utterly gorgeous.  Warm but not scorchingly hot, breezy, and with a beautiful fog settled over everything that cleared as the morning went on.  My iPhone photos can't really do it justice, but that didn't stop me from trying to capture it anyway.

I couldn't stop exclaiming to Nell and Ree about that gorgeous gray fog.

Meanwhile, the girls were eager to dig and play in the sand, search for shells and other treasures, and wade into the water to race each wave up onto the shore.   Molly obligingly sat in the Ergo, snuggled against me, my companion in taking in the beauty of the day.

We found marvelous tide pools to wade through and explore.

Nell was quick to observe that the seaweed-covered rocks reminded her of a page from the book One Morning in Maine, when Sal slips on seaweed on a rock while saying hello to a loon and a seal.

Not long after that observation, she found a gull feather, just like Sal does in the book.  I asked her if she was going to make a wish on it, like in the story, and she replied that she already had.  When I asked her what she wished for, she passed the test: "I can't tell you, or the wish won't come true!"

I had a sneaking suspicion it might have been a wish like Sal's wish from McCloskey's book.  So, after stopping to observe the amazing milkweed pods exploding on either side of the boardwalk, we headed for the car.

...And drove a couple of minutes up the road for chocolate ice cream cones.  Just like Sal in One Morning in Maine wished for on her seagull feather.

At the ice cream stand, we parked next to an elderly couple who ordered their own ice cream cones just before we did.  Impeccably dressed in slacks and a blouse, the woman held her soft serve cone with hands that shook, drops of ice cream spilling on her papery skin.  We chatted for a little bit while the girls enjoyed their ice cream cones.  "These are the best years of your life," she told me, watching the kids lick the sprinkles off their cones.  The couple stayed after finishing their own ice creams, watching the girls and periodically offering paper towels or a word of advice for a child to catch an impending drip.  She told me about her two sons, her five grandchildren, her two great-grandchildren.  When I asked if we were keeping them from anything, she replied, "Oh no... what do we have to go home to?!  Nothing!"

Driving home, my eyes filled with tears for a moment thinking about it all: the beautiful morning, the memories I get to make with my kids, and an aging woman who had grown up in Maine and moved to Gloucester, raised her own kids and then retired to a beach front home that was beautiful but empty.  I wondered how many ice cream cones she had enjoyed over the course of her life, how often she and her husband took a little jaunt down to the ice cream stand on a summer's day to enjoy a cone of soft serve in their car together.   And I wondered what our family's life will look like twenty, thirty, forty years from now.  Perhaps I'll have the clean house I work so hard for these days but can rarely attain.  And perhaps I'll see mothers with young children, sandy from head to toe, sticky from an ice cream treat, and remember with fondness the best days of my life.  The days when I had sand tracked through my house and sticky handprints on the car door handles, when tired children fell apart from too much fun and cried more than seemed necessary over the prospect of a shower, when I lifted little girls into the stream of clean water and they stopped wailing and instead squealed with laughter as chocolate came off their faces and we watched sand and dirt swirl down the drain.

I asked Nell if by chance a chocolate ice cream cone had been what she wished for, and she replied that yes, it was exactly what she wished for, but that she had actually wished for two things.  She also wished for a real baby pig of her very own.

At least I could make one of those wishes come true.

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