Why We Need Our Dog

We were standing at the edge of the water, the sun splashing itself against the curling waves so that the water itself sparkled. My thirteen year old son, whose freckles reappeared after a few days on the beach and whose blue eyes match the turquoise sea, leaned into me. “I don’t want to leave.”

“Me neither,” I answered with my arm around him.

“It was an awesome week.”

And we took a few last moments watching the sea together.

Two hours later, having packed up and showered, our nine year old and I sat on the Harbour island dock with our bags while my husband went back to get the older boys and lock up the golf cart. Our son wore a Kansas City Chiefs baseball hat and a fluorescent green t-shirt from last summer’s swim team. His red fox neck pillow was wrapped around his neck.

“You guys are so much fun to travel with,” I told him and couldn’t help but kiss him on the nose.

He smiled, “You and Dad are fun to travel with too.”

And when we were all together, having made our connecting flight, but nostalgic for the day we arrived eight days ago, our fourteen year old reminded us that home is not so bad, because…

“I can’t wait to see the puppy.”

The puppy who is no longer a puppy. “Poor puppy,” the boys added and were suddenly ready for vacation’s end.

 

The Best Vacation

Spring Break 2016 has ended, and I return from a week at the beach certain that it was the best vacation ever. Ideal weather. Tan but no sunburn. Lots of rest despite the roosters. Delicious lobster quesadillas for lunch three out of seven days. Softest sand on the planet between our toes. Clear blue water.

Sounds great, but “best ever” because…

Our three boys played together in the water, splashing through waves that looked too large… even larger when I was in the water with them several times a day. We dove under waves, Let them crash on our heads. They talked and laughed and made up silly games as the waves kept pummeling us.

They told stories, gave opinions, laughed more, told jokes, paused mid-sentence, dove under, and came up talking. Tireless. Fearless.

They played hours of football with Dad.

We made two styles of sandcastle. A multilevel traditional fortress and a drippy one that received a “Lovely drippy castle. Well done!” from a British accent who walked by as we completed it. They were both our best to date.

The boys read good books and talked about them. Killer Angels, Moneyball, Wings of Fire.

They helped the youngest find Orion in the night sky.

If I could have stopped time a hundred times since they were born, I would have. At each moment, I imagined I could not love them more. But then we would not have had this vacation and I would not have seen how sweet they are together at 8 and 12 and 13, how much fun they have with their brothers.

And I might not understand that “best ever” and “love more” will happen again and again, washing over us like the waves and the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

Attack of the Vacation Beasts

It is a good thing that all went well in March 2013, while on safari in South Africa. I have bad luck with vacation animals, and that was the only recent trip where the beasts were not on the attack even when our jeep got stuck a few yards from an alpha lion and his fiercer looking ladies.

Phew.

On other trips, however, there were the all-night partying roosters who never learned to wait for sunrise.

The pack of chickens, led by Geraldine, who chased me through the barn, pecking at my calves because I had not brought them grapes.

The toad that made our dog vomit five times after going after “frog’s legs” for an appetizer.

The crazy swans who swarmed every time we went near the water, sending the kids into high-decibel shrieks and the Puritans in neighboring lake homes wishing we had never come.

And now, falling asleep each night, is it the swans or the frogs honking?

I miss our dog. She may roam the halls, nails clicking on hardwood floors like an alarm clock we do not need to set, but she sleeps through the night and doesn’t bite when she is hungry.

 

I Almost Forgot

Family life stole something from me that I had almost forgotten until this week vacationing on a farm – a place where our three boys run from field to field, play Frisbee and baseball, ride ATVS across the countryside, help split wood for an afternoon…. And then sleep deeply for hours.

Each morning on the farm, I wake up to the sound of birds singing and the sun shining through the window. A cool breeze blowing across the sheets on the bed. I lay there peacefully for ten minutes, thirty or more, soaking it in.

Fresh air. Quiet.

No dog paws clicking across the hardwood floor, or growling at the bottom of the bed. “Time to go out.”

No child tugging at the blanket, morning breath in my face, by 6:00 a.m. “Mom, I’m bored!” “I’m hungry!” “Are you awake?” “Can you come downstairs?”

No list of errands.

Just me. My muscles slowly stretching. My brain turning on one thought at a time. The singing birds. The sun for a few moments before it all begins.

South Africa: Far from My Kids

I have been away from my three boys for five days now. It is the longest we have been apart, and there are still six days before I see them back home in Colorado.

When three giraffes run alongside our Land Rover, I wish they were here. They would love that. Or the baby baboon riding on its mother’s back. Or the herd of elephants playing in the water. Two tons of animal swimming gracefully, nearly disappearing under the water’s surface. A male supervises the water fight from the land. They would love racing around in the darkness searching for lions while dodging giant spider webs.

We will have to come back one day so they can experience what it feels like to finally discover where the rhino has been hiding for three days.

I hear their voices on the phone. I know my five year old is going to look taller after eleven days. I hear how much my ten year old misses his parents. I wonder if my nine year old is still misbehaving at school. Or if the talk we had before I left was enough.

I tell them about how close we were to the lions, and feel the urge to cry. Is it in the retelling of the drama of that moment? Or that I wish they’d experienced it with me?

The leopard remains in hiding, maybe saving himself for discovery by three boys on our return.

The Changing of the Guards

There is a day I dread every year, and I have wished it away since I can remember.

It’s the first day every summer when the newly trained lifeguards twirl their first whistles. It means that the veteran guards have returned to college. That the swim team has disbanded. That the neighborhood kids are all getting reacquainted with their school friends.

It shows when the new, still-in-high-school guards wear their sweatshirts in the suddenly brisk mornings. There is a melancholy in the afternoon light, as if the pool itself knows it will soon be drained, abandoned by its children with only leaves collecting and rotting on the top of the tarp that covers it.

I have nothing against the newly trained guards. I was one once myself a long time ago, eager, alert, proud to be a pool elder, empowered by my new whistle and the height of my chair.

I just know that their first day on the job is the harbinger of the changing seasons, the end of another glorious, happy summer.

Penny Candy at the General Store

Remember moving slowly down the row of shelves with your small brown paper bag, eyeballing each bin of candy, doing your own math, mouth watering as you thought about each little treasure? Candy necklaces, Ring Pops, Fun Dip, Sweet tarts, long strips of paper with Dots, lemon drops, gummy fish, BB Bats, bags of Pop Rocks, malt balls, gumdrops, jawbreakers and more.

How, when they brought such joy, did Penny Candy Stores lose their place in our communities? Why do we only find them now in quaint beach villages where we vacation?

Most repeat visitors on Cape Cod have been to Candy Manor in Chatham or the Brewster General Store, where the most crowded aisle is filled with children shouting out prices to their parents, who carry a stub of a pencil and a strip of paper to keep track. The older kids do it themselves. The General Store is one of the few places where the honor system prevails out of necessity. It would take far too long to tally the treats at the register, and half of the candy would be gone before the many kids got through the line.

“Fifteen cents! Sixty cents! One dollar and twenty-five cents!”

The name “penny candy” certainly used to be more valid. But the happiness the process brings to kids remains the same.

Before our trip this year, the boys all began their annual litany of things they wanted to do as soon as we got there. Batting cages, Cobies (the roadside ice cream shack that sells ice cream in MLB baseball caps), and of course, the General Store.

As we pulled into the driveway that first afternoon, the first question they asked was “when can we go to the General Store?”

Every day we didn’t go during the two weeks meant a negotiation regarding when we would go again.

One afternoon after spending the entire day on the beach, my eight year old whined that we had not gone on “an adventure” that day.

“The beach was an adventure,” I said. “We floated on tubes, built a sandcastle, played football…”

“That’s not an adventure,” he pouted.

“Well, what adventure do you want to go on then?”

His eyes lit up and he grinned, “Can we go to the General Store?”

It’s just candy. They can get the same candy at home. But my eight year old got it perfectly. Perusing a long aisle of brightly colored treats with other excited kids, picking out individual pieces of your all-time favorites, putting them into a small bag that seems created just for Penny Candy, and doing your own math – that’s an adventure. That’s what makes the penny candy store of old so great.