The nights have turned cold, below forty degrees here last night. The unseasonably hot days addle me, and I left all the windows open through the night, which of course resulted in a girl with a sniffly nose and a boy thrashing in my bed, in the warm space between Scott and me. At five-forty-five, I removed a flailing arm from my face one last time and picked up Brendan to haul him to his own bed. Of course he woke up, and began begging for this, for that, for a warm bed buddy. I told him I’d be right back, and quietly gathered my clothes, boots, jacket, keys. He heard everything and started to get whimpery with the sounds of me leaving for a morning walk.
“Well,” I whispered, “have you ever seen the sun rise? I thought I’d take you along.”
We’ve watched the sun rise over the green ridge outside our window, on winter mornings, but somehow the beach sunrise has never been as appealing as a warm bed to Brendan. Today it seemed like a special treat to him. I tugged on his sweatpants and sweatshirt and jacket, tied his sneakers in the dark, and off we went. “Be sure not to slam the door,” he instructed on his way out the door and to the car.
Fifty questions later I began to describe how the words “sacred” and “quiet” interconnect, and questions subsided for a moment or two. Brendan has taught himself to tell time, much to my chagrin, and many of his questions pertain to the mathematics of time. I explain my daily mantra: There is the time on the clock, and then there is Kairos, what time is for. This is the time for watching a sunrise. It will be okay, regardless of the number. He understands the mathematics better than the abstraction, but he lets me be in charge of the time, mostly.
“Can I take my teddy bear?” Brendan asked, as I shut off the car.
“I think you will want to keep your hands in your pockets to keep warm. Will your bear wait for you here?” Brendan strapped the bear into his seatbelt, closed the door, and we scrambled across the footbridge, the last morning star guiding us for a few more moments.
We looked at the sandswept ridges before stepping into them. “No one is here but us!” Brendan exclaimed. Good quiet mom today, I said, “Let’s look carefully and see if that is true.”
“There’s a surfer! But there are no footprints!” Hmmm, I said. We started our sojourn, peeking back at the path of our footprints, small and large.
“See the sand fairies dance today.” I whispered as pale drifts blew by us, toward the sea.
“Don’t they know they’ll get wet over there?”
“Maybe they want to get wet,” I said.
“Or maybe dance with the wave fairies—see those misty things off the top of the waves!”
The wind was icier than I’d predicted, and we ran to keep warm, holding hands to the far end of the beach. Brendan breathed a sigh of relief that the path to the Island was still covered in water. “I don’t want to go on a cold day. I want the first time I go to that Island to be on a hot day, in my swim trunks.” We made a turn and ran back the other direction.
“But what about the sunrise? Are we leaving it?” Brendan asked.
“No, we still have plenty of time. We’ll watch it from a special place, closer to the bridge. All we have to do is watch the clouds in the west. Tell me when they turn pink, and we’ll know to check on the sun and see how he’s doing.” We ran along, a few runners and dog walkers passing in the other direction.
“Pink!” pointed Brendan. “Pink and blue look really good together, don’t you think?”
“Yep. I like them, too. We have just enough time.” We stopped at the lifeguard stand. “Did you know you can see farther from higher up?”
“That’s why lifeguards sit on these things, to see farther?” Brendan asked, climbing up the big rungs.
“Uh-huh. Let’s see.” We reached the top, and I placed him on my lap to protect him from the wind at my back.
“Where do I look?” Brendan asked.
“Where is the sky the brightest?”
“Well, it’s a little golden over there.”
“That’s where we should look, then, just beside the little island.” A beautiful fringe of clouds lit up, and then the sun.
“I’m too cold to stay here very long,” Brendan said.
“I’m going to break my rule about numbers and time, okay? The sun takes four minutes to rise above the horizon, although it can seem like much longer. It’s not long, and then we’ll get moving again.” This calms him and we sigh a last sigh as the sun lifts off. Already, we were climbing down the stand in the bright sunlight.
“Where will the sun spend the rest of the day?” He asked.
“It will climb high and warm up everything.”
“Where does the sun go when it leaves us in the evening?”
“It goes to warm other places on the earth.”
“How does it do that?” I’m feeling very unimaginative at this time of day, and figuring the myth on the tip of my tongue is as good as any, I draw a dot in the sand with my toe, then a circle around it for the path of the Earth. “Where does the moon go?” I draw a spiral around the Earth in a corkscrew path. I can see it goes in one eyeball and out the other—I might have done better with a story for this particular boy, but I’ve taught my abstract science lesson and told the story of orbits, as best I can before coffee and on a short night’s sleep.
“Huh! Can we go home now?” Running again, he stops me near the footbridge.
“Hey, where did our footprints go?” Hmmmm, I said. “Oh! Those sand fairies filled it up!” Yep. Over the bridge, I explain that we go back to clock time over the bridge and into the car, where we discover we’ve only been out of the house forty minutes, and we are home before wake-up time. I whisper that we will keep our walk secret until the drive to school, so we can eat breakfast, get dressed and pack lunches without arguments.
Brendan packed his bear up the steps. “Wasn’t that a good sunrise, Pinky?” he asks, and Pinky nodded, the way bears do. We re-enter clock time and chore time just at the right time, and I start the coffee and the scrambled eggs for another day.