The Beanstalk

Record of a writer, a family & an adventure.

Month: May, 2014

At the beach.

I fell in love with my family all over again last week. The ocean is a bewitching wonder, with its frothing rhythm, its voice whispering in the morning when the horizon is blended to the atmosphere in a spectrum of white, and roaring by afternoon when the sky is a crisp blue against the dark gray of the sea. As soon as our feet are down in the yellow sand I forget all the bad things. I love to traipse across that great expanse toward the shoreline with my beach bag, knowing there’s a book inside, holding onto my hat with the wide, floppy brim.

It wasn’t Jack’s first time at the beach, but it was the first time since he was big enough to get around, since he possessed the potential to start enjoying the endless sand, the crabs, the waves, the neon buckets. Honestly, I had dreaded this vacation for that reason, as I have seen dozens of babies cry and squirm at sand in their chubby fists, then transferred to eyes and butt cracks and mouths. What if he was ornery at the beach? What if we were forced to spend the week indoors to avoid the carping? I told myself, this is parenting. You wanted this.

He loved it. Every day, in the morning and then again in the afternoon when he’d had a few hours to sleep away his sun-induced exhaustion, he played on the beach. He has, in fact, never been as content as he was there in front of the ocean. He toddled and crawled all over the sloping sand, splashed in the cold salt water, threw balls with his dad and cousins, posed like a Presidential nominee for photos. The only tears were in seeing someone else eating goldfish, and then when we took him inside. I was astounded, and then I thought, Why am I surprised? He is my own flesh and blood.

Mark and I sat together and watched him play. I read a lot, Mark dozed, we chatted some. We all sat around talking while the four boys played and played, and on the third day I thought to check my work email.

I went in one afternoon to put Jack down for his nap. His hair curls now, and after the salty air had tousled it, he was a delightful mess. His skin was starting to get a little brown, his cheeks were rosy, and he fell asleep in my arms within a minute. I thought How lucky am I? This is the family I get. I don’t think about that very often because I’m usually thinking about cleaning my house since we’re having people over for dinner, or finishing up the deposit for work before the bank closes at five o’clock, or the fact that I can’t be away from my son for more than forty-eight seconds because he’s at that stage where he will eat or destroy anything in his path and we haven’t fully baby-proofed. But at the beach, far away from the elements of life that add complication, stress and fear, I remember. My family is the marrow. (And Kyle, don’t think we didn’t miss you.)

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Big lights will inspire you, let’s hear it.

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Last weekend Mark and I went to New York City to celebrate our fifth anniversary. I love NYC because of the energy. The never-empty streets, the traffic noise, the food smells, all of the colors (flower vendors, you had me at ‘hello’) and races and languages. The subway. Even if we were rich and had a personal driver, I’d still ride the subway. A million worlds collide in that city at every moment, every day. It is a moving, breathing, working, thriving place and I can’t get enough. We have started trying to go up every couple of years, which makes it feel wonderfully familiar and comfortable, as if we’re putting our teensy stake in.

Jack did not come along, so that made it easier to come home. We walked in the door after six days away and he was sitting in his seat eating peas with my mother-in-law. He smiled this great big smile and yelled ‘Haaaaa,’ which is his version of an enthusiastic greeting, and then he went back to the peas. I snuggled him and refueled the mama tank, but after a few hours home I felt myself getting a little heartsick that the trip was over and we were back to our reality. I despise this reaction because I want to be the sort of person that revels in the memory of a good thing, but the reality is that the anticipation and the thing itself are the best part, and the memories don’t quite do it justice! And I also want to be the sort of person that is content to embrace my reality, but sometimes I am not.

Yesterday I got pulled over for rolling through two stop signs. Jack was in the back seat screaming because I should have already had him home eating lunch and heading to his nap. While the officer explained that what I did was really dangerous, that people living around those stop signs had been complaining about that very thing, and that I really needed to pay more attention, I was internally begging him to stop talking because the sound of my son losing his mind behind me was causing me to become unhinged. He was kind of laughing when he handed me the ticket for $238.00 and that made me mad. I wasn’t mean to him, but I wasn’t nice either. I think I probably seemed very tired and ungrateful, which pretty much sums up how I felt. When I got home Mark was there for lunch and I started crying because it’s frustrating, and a lot of money, and stressful to be pulled over when you’re already frazzled and it’s 86 degrees. I was sweating and cussing, par for the course, and weepy. There’s never been a better suited time for the expression HOT MESS.

Last night we talked about it and how what it really came down to is that we had this great trip, so much fun together, escaping from the norm, and we got home to a pretty exhausting week for both of us. Mark said, “Gin, we have to come down the mountain. Can’t live up there in tents.” And he’s right. And the memories ARE treasures.

Tomorrow Kyle graduates from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Mother’s Day. My whole family will be together for this monument – last kid standing, walking into the world of adults. I am excited for it, and pretty thankful that this is my real life.