Friday, March 25, 2011

What a Picture is Worth

I saw a picture of a dog on the beach that made me feel sentimental and impulsive and suddenly I am in the car with both kids strapped tight in the backseat cruising 126 with a backpack full of extra clothes and a picnic lunch and Lauryn Hill is serenading us as I try really hard to obey the speed limit.

And I've driven 126 west so many times that I'm on autopilot and Ken Kesey interrupts my thoughts and I remember sitting in the sun on our deck and telling Brent I was pregnant, while a tattered copy of Sometimes a Great Notion sat on my lap. I will never forget the last lines of that book and how it all spoke to me in some weird and inexplicable way and how I held back tears, though the end is mostly happy and I didn't understand why the hairs on my neck stood up and I felt like crying. And a tiny Jack grew and cells divided and I sat in the warm sun and marveled at the strangeness of this life. Later I learned that Sometimes a Great Notion was my mom's favorite book. So now the tears make sense.

I hold two small hands as we explore the beach and I see things through a different lens. We chase the waves and laugh and get soaking wet and we all start shivering but nobody seems to care.

I wipe salty faces and try to get everyone's hands at least somewhat clean before lunch. And then I stop caring about that and we eat our peanut butter and jellies on a sandy picnic table and no one complains.

When the drizzle turns to a downpour we seek refuge in Sea Lion Caves and I don't even blink when they charge us a small fortune to get in the door. Because I am feeling impulsive, and these days being impulsive maybe means spending outside of the budget on something frivolous. Like sea lions.

I stand in line with a group of teenagers behind me and I can hear them laughing and carrying on the way only teenagers can and I wonder if they see me as a middle aged lady in a raincoat. I want to turn around and ask them to share the joke, because I don't feel like a middle aged lady in a raincoat. I feel like someone who would get it.

We end up at the dock and wander among the aging ships and I wonder who owns them. Where do they sail to? Jack does not understand why we can't go aboard. I consider trespassing for a moment, and then reality comes back to whack me over the head. I'm too old and responsible to do something like that.

I am almost thirty five years old and if I live as long as my mom did, that means I have ten years left. And I know as I hold small hands and look into the eyes of those small people who call me mama that it's not enough. I try to push that thought to the dark and cobwebby parts of my mind, but it is always there.

And so I focus instead on ice cream and smile as grandmotherly types comment about the adorable and sticky mess that Sawyer becomes and I know that I made the right choice when I saw the picture of the dog on the beach.


  1. Well, it took me three times reading before I could get all the way through without wiping tears away. So many things to comment on - great pics, sweet boys, it's all going by too fast. Really only one word necessary - beautiful. So glad we're sharing this ride.

  2. Your boys are so lucky to have you to guide them into manhood. Thank you for sharing this very special day.

  3. I think what I love most is your awareness of your active *choosing* to be so present and alive. Your boys are very lucky!

  4. Awesome Cassadie, Thanks for being a great Mom to the boys and wife for Brent...

  5. Great post, as usual!

    My father was 33 years old when he died, and as I approach that age (a few years away, but still), I can't help but feel very strange about it. The fact that I'm relatively young and that I will outlive my father when I turn 34 years old. It definitely is a reminder to enjoy life to the fullest.

    By the way, your boys looks so happy in all of the pictures in this post. They were clearly loving the impulsive vibe of this trip! :)

  6. My little one turns one in mom died a few weeks after my first birthday...I AM TERRIFIED!!!