The cool foggy morning suits the children well, as they quickly settle into weaving friendship bracelets while still in pajamas. The cat begs, the chores wait—it’s the quiet that matters.
I stretch a stiff foot on my left, crane my neck and roll my shoulders—when I scratch my head, sand sifts to the floor. How many trips did I make through the waves yesterday? Thirty? Forty? Washing to shore laughing, my children astonished to find me at the foot of their growing sandcastle, rolling off the sandy board and into the surf. Brendan would stop long enough to applaud and point to the next swell growing on the horizon. Our teenage friend Sasha is built for this kind of play, her face alight as she shouts “Did you see? Oh my gosh! Am I drowned? There’s the next one… GO!”
My friend Diane wanted only to sit quietly in the sun at the shore, watching her threesome play “tsunami,” children running screaming from each translucent blue-green wave, sparkling eyes reminding that the screams are for drama, only.
Was it an hour? Two? Flopping exhausted on the warm blanket, shaking water from ears.
“What have I done?” I groaned to Diane. “Remind me to be in better shape next summer.”
“Was that as fun as it looked?” she asked.
“More. I’d keep going if there were more easy waves to ride, but the waves have shifted a bit. How’s Sasha?”
“Happy. She’s still out swimming. I’ll watch. Everyone’s good. Lotta good food here. Want a grape?” She tells me stories of her years sailing on the South Pacific, stories of living on Hawaii. This water is too cold for her, but the sun is hot. It’s too cold for me, too, but I remind myself of friends who’d love to ride waves today, no matter the temperature. We congratulate ourselves one more time for our genius, being at the beach for this beautiful day at the end of summer.
“Nothing gold can stay,” writes Whitman, and perhaps parents know this better than anyone.
An hour later I’d stayed too long, savoring the goodness past all common sense, and there’s no need to describe the hell of packing a van, of driving with a howling seven-year-old, even in the company of Sasha, who goes stoic in moments of familial distress.
Brendan thought he could take his promised time-out in the bathtub with bubbles, a brilliant idea I need to consider more often. Madeleine set up an appetizer picnic for Sasha. I grabbed an icy beer in a moment of weak judgement, and edged towards sleep instead of dinner preparation. It worked well in the end, with Scott arriving to slice vegetables and form hamburgers for the grill. I can stand and flip burgers, even in my sleep. Guest dads came by for child pickups, with warm conversations and time to catch up, staying long for burgers and grilled sweet potatoes.
Scott offered to take the kids to the last street concert of summer, leaving me asleep in my clothes and dreaming of waves. I wake feeling rested for the first time in weeks, surrounded by sand sketches on my pillow and hair smelling of salt, ocean and summer. The fog will suit us well today, as we look at the list of chores to address before school next week. The stiffness, too, reminds me Poseidon is good for a visit now and then, but I’d best stick to earthly concerns at least for today, and change the sandy sheets and shower the ocean from my hair until next time.