Last weekend was one of those golden, empty-of-all-plans weekends. We spent it at my parents’ house on the coast, one of our very favorite places. On Saturday morning my parents left for two separate out-of-town commitments, and the four of us looked ahead at two empty days with delight. We simply hung out. There was golf, tennis, hamburgers on the grill and dinner for four at the table on the back porch. There was reading on the couches, a game of Clue, many games of Mancala. There was some shouting and a lot of hugging. In short, it was our regular family life.
One thing that’s critically important to me is that my children know how precious, it is to be alone, the four of us. I want them to know how much I prize that time. My attachment to these empty family hours grows ever fiercer and my experience of them shimmers with more and more beauty. I am sure this is correlated to my keen sense of how limited they are, days with no plans and only each other for company. These are the days I know they will remember as their childhood with a capital C, the days I’ll turn over in my pocket years and years from now like touchstones smoothed from repeated touching: them sprawled out on top of their beds asleep in the heat, the smell of sunscreen on Whit’s head when I kissed it, the clatter of Mancala pebbles as they played, talking quietly to each other.
My favorite part of the weekend, though, was Saturday afternoon at the beach. I love the coast; for many reasons I have explored before, there’s something about this border between two worlds, this place that the moon demonstrates its power over the tides, this land of shells and myriad blues that feels like home. On Sunday I stood where the ocean meets the land and watched my three family members’ heads, dark and sleek as otters, bobbing towards the wooden raft off the shore. They clambered up and waved to me, arms above their heads, exaggerated as though they were miles away.
Then I watched Grace jump off the raft into the ocean. She came up, broke the surface, and even from the shore I could see her grin. It was 5 weeks to the day since she broke her collarbone. I felt a wash of simultaneous wonder and gratitude, and saw the ghostly, broken bones on the x-ray in my head. My eyes filled with tears as I thought about how healing happens, inexorably, undeniably, mostly invisibly.
And I stood there, shallow waves lapping at my feet, watching my children hurl themselves over and over again from the raft into the ocean, hearing their laughter, trying to simply be there. I fought to keep my observer self inside my body, instead of letting her slip out and hover apart, watching, chronicling. No: I squished my toes into the sand, felt the sun on my arms, squinted to watch Grace and Whit having a cannonball contest. Trying to fully live that golden hour, even as I knew it was running through my fingers as I watched it.
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