Roundabout Field Trip

Gwen’s preschool had a field trip today to a place called Ferry Beach. We were surprisingly kind of organized for an outing scheduled at nine o’clock in the morning. I’d packed up the beach toys, towels, a change of clothes for each girl, bug spray, sunblock, yadda yadda… it was all good, except that the woman who can drive around Manhattan with no real issues – the same woman who figured out that crazy maze of streets in downtown Boston, couldn’t find her way to a state park in southern Maine. In case you wondered, I’m talking about me.

In my defense, Mapquest told me where to go “at the second roundabout.” Well, the second roundabout never materialized and, thanks to the fact that Grandma and I were yapping away in the front seat, we missed the road that we were supposed to turn onto at the roundabout that doesn’t exist. Fast forward 20 minutes and we rolled into some town I’d never heard of. We were nowhere near a beach though, we did happen to pass a sign for Lake Bunganut which resulted in a thoroughly immature series of fictitiously named lakes such as, Lake Bunghole…home of Camp Dingleberry, etc.

We turned around and made our way back toward that invisible roundabout but since we were now thirty minutes late for the state park and not really feeling it anymore, I came up with another plan. The morning’s thick fog was still burning off and Kate was passed out in her car seat after a few minutes of intense finger sucking. I looked in the rearview mirror and watched my little Gwennie’s sullen face. It was clear that I’d disappointed her with my failure to find the roundabout. I saw that she was trying to maintain a strong front, but her little mouth always reveals her true emotion. Her lips had settled into a straight line, erasing that happy upward curve that they normally wear. She met my gaze and, for my benefit, feigned a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. Suddenly, I was the world’s worst mother.

Hey Cookie, why don’t we have a special day out?

Like what?

Why don’t we go take a ride on that train you’ve been looking at in the mall?

Personally, I don’t get the attraction but she’s been begging for weeks.

OKAY!

On our way back toward the Maine Mall, we spotted a place I’ve been wanting to explore. It’s full of architectural salvage and, frankly, resembles a glorified junkyard. Grandma and I were intrigued. Gwen was intrigued. We banged a Uie and hit that glorified junkyard hard. Have you ever watched American Pickers? It was kind of like that. We picked and rummaged and explored and Gwen was into it. Really. She found a giant life-sized Bugs Bunny, a decapitated mannequin head, two vintage gumball machines, a fantastic chair and a soapstone sink.

Right about now you’re probably thinking, what a terrible mother! She missed the field trip and brought the kid to a junk yard? Yeah. I did.

I also drove her to Snip-It’s, the Disney World of children’s hair salons  (in case you didn’t know), where three inches were trimmed from her long hair as she watched cartoons, blew bubbles and snarfed down copious amounts of Dum-Dum Pops.

Then we went for a ride around the mall on a motorized choo-choo train. That’s right. I drove to the Maine Mall and hunted down a parking space for the sole purpose of walking inside to pay $6 for a ride down the main corridor of the mall. Like a giant goofball I stuffed myself into a bright yellow train car and was pulled around the mall with Gwen and her beaming smile. Teenage girls laughed at me but I didn’t care. Cookie sat on the seat across from me and, with our our knees touching, she held my hand. She told me that I was the best mommy in the world and, with that declaration, she bought herself a pre-lunch Boston Cream donut followed by an afternoon in the sprinkler. Because that’s where the invisible roundabout took us.

Rain

I remember the cool, cool air blowing from the air conditioner as the car wound through Westchester and Connecticut toward the Long Island Sound. I didn’t need to worry about certain death should the passenger side airbag deploy because it was 1979 and we didn’t worry about seatbelts and airbags then. I was eight-years-old and enjoying the view from the front bench seat of Aunt Rain’s AMC Eagle.

Going to the ocean with Aunt Rain was the highlight of my vacation. Each summer I spent two weeks with my favorite two people in the entire world. My days were filled with the swimming, fairs and fishing, but those beach days were reserved for just Aunt Rain and me. We would float for hours in the salty water of the Long Island Sound at Sherwood Island.

She laid her body back in the water and I thought she would go under, as I would have if I attempted to float. Like magic, her body floated on the gentle waves as she turned her face up to absorb the heat of the sun. The tide was out and crabs scurried beneath our feet. I jumped, buoyed by the water and landed on Rain.  My little body was held up by hers and we laughed about my startled scream and the crab hurrying past my toes. I asked her how she floated so well and watched beads of water roll from her skin.

Our skin glistened with Hawaiian Tropic and my nose was filled with its heady coconut scent. I gingerly laid myself on the blanket, trying my best to keep my greasy skin perfectly clean and free of sand. We pulled sandwiches from the cooler and the Fritos from her canvas LL Bean tote were warm and greasy from the heat of the sun. I alternated licking the salt off the Fritos with sips of shockingly sweet Hawaiian Punch. Aunt Rain read her book and I basked in the sun. Our shared silence was always comfortable.

The ride home was bumpy, sunburned, sleepy and sandy. The lush green landscape of Connecticut flew by my window and lulled me into a sleepy, post-sun state. I looked up at my Aunt Rain, marveled at her beauty and the love she gave before closing my eyes for a cat nap.




Aunt Rain and Kate, January 2011

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Good Luck, Reggie

 One of the perks that comes with living in Maine is this
and these

Since no one else in the family really likes to eat lobster, Joe and I planned to have a special dinner together. We waited all week for ‘Lobstah’ night!

As is usually the case when we have lobster, the kids crowd around the sink and touch the lobsters’ hard shells, they pick them up and bestow them with love and kisses. They eventually name them.

Last night’s lobsters were dubbed Bob and Reggie. You can tell them apart by their rubber bands. Reggie is the dapper looking lobster in the background wearing mismatched rubber bands on his claws.



A few years ago Grandma, who loves lobster like a junkie loves a rock of crack, was visiting and bought Joe his very own lobster. He lovingly guarded the pile of crustaceans that crawled around in the sink waiting for immenent death. He made friends with one particular lobster and named him “Angel”.
My mother and I walked into the kitchen to find him lovingly stroking Angel’s shell and saying, “Don’t worry my Angel…it’s okay.” His hushed voice and far away gaze oddly resembled a scene from Silence of the Lambs.
Perhaps I was overeacting a bit, but I momentarily envisioned future-Joe and Buffalo Bill dancing before his mirror came to mind. “Shhhh…Don’t worry my Angel….”
A half an hour later, Joe ate Angel. With a horrifying lack of empathy, he watched Grandma, a/k/a Lobster Killer, plunge his Angel head first into the pot of boiling water. I chalked his indifference up to normal 4-year-old cluelessness, crossed my fingers that he wasn’t a sociopath and hoped for the best.
Fast forward a couple of years and thankfully, his preschool preoccupation with death and understanding of where food comes from have evolved slightly.
Last night he formed a bond with Reggie. I surmise that when I snapped this shot, he was beginning to question his ability to eat his new friend. Notice the semi-crazed look in his eyes. He’s forcing a smile. He’s not happy that ol’ Reg is about to be boiled, but hasn’t said anything yet.
Bob was already in the hotseat when Joe began questioning how much longer until Reggie was going to be cooked. The timer began beeping and Bob, who was wearing a lovely new shade of red, was placed on a platter.
Okay Joe, it’s Reggie’s turn…  Joe? Are you crying?
head nod
What’s wrong, buddy? Are you upset about cooking Reggie?
gulp. head nod. I don’t think I can.
If nothing else, I understand how difficult it is to eat your own pet. (click here to find out exactly why I am so ‘disturbed’.)




 Would you like to drive Reggie back to the ocean and set him free?

Yes.

Get your coat! Hey, Daddy!!! We have to go for a while…we’re driving Reggie back to the ocean!

We put Reggie back in his white grocery bag and hurried to the car. Joe brought his plate of broccoli, refusing the chicken that everyone else was eating.

Mind you, the ocean is exactly 8.2 miles from our house, otherwise I might have told Joe to suck it up and eat the damn $12 lobster. We rushed to the beach with Reggie on Joe’s lap. We weren’t allowed to speak above a whisper or play the radio because “it might disturb Reggie. He’s not used to our kind of noise.”

We pulled into a surprisingly full parking lot at the beach for 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday in March. Then I remembered that it was the night of the Super Moon. Great. We would have an audience for our lobster release.

Like a man on a mission, Joe walked quickly and carefully, holding Reggie’s white paper bag before him. We pondered the best method of release and it was decided that we should “carefully throw” Reggie as far as we could so that the waves wouldn’t carry him back to the beach.

At the water’s edge, we opened the sack and poured a very limp Reggie onto the sand. I quickly removed his mismatched rubber bands, but Reggie didn’t make any move to pinch me. I dunked him into the water, hoping to revive him a bit and saw some slight movement.

Good luck, Reggie!

As gently as I could manage, I tossed Reggie into the Atlantic ocean. He was pretty floppy, but I didn’t say so. I just turned and looked at Joe who smiled then ran and threw his arms around me.

You did it Joe! You saved Reggie.

No. We did it, Mom.

Freezing, we ran back up the beach to the warmth of the car and hopped in. Joe laughed about the sand in his shoes and marveled at the boarded up snack shack as we pulled out of the parking lot.

You know…I bet Bob was a real jerk to the other lobsters. That’s why it was okay to cook him.

Hmm…Hey, when we get home do you want to eat some of the chicken I cooked?

No thanks, I’ll just have some chicken nuggets… I can’t tell what kind of animal those come from. I’ve decided that I want to be a vegeterarianan.

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I’ll Be Seeing You…

The surf is rough today. I hear the waves crashing as soon as I open the car door. 94 degrees usually brings throngs of tourists to the beach, but not today. They fled Vacationland and returned to their lives, doing a mad dash to ready themselves for the new school year. Our beach is suddenly vast. We don’t need to maneuver around families with tents, lounge chairs and refrigerator sized coolers to find our spot. We simply walk straight ahead, drop our bag on the sand and skip into the cool water.

The tide is coming in, driving the remaining beach goers back toward the dunes. The girls and I step into the waves. Holding hands, we let the water rush around our feet. Gwen screams with a mixture of delight and fear as the sea pulls at her tiny legs. I can see terror briefly wash over her features as she grips my hand tighter. She looks up at my face, as if wondering if I’m still there. I smile at her reassuringly, “I won’t let go of you Cookie.” Kate pins her baby legs to my hip and winds one arm through mine to hold on. She waves her chubby hand at the sea and wiggles her body in a delighted baby dance. Everything is good in this moment.

Grandma grabs her chair and sits, letting the water wash over her feet and cool her. Eventually, Kate and Gwen find an abandoned castle moat and climb in. As they spend their time running between the shallow waves and the sandy pit that will occupy them for the next two hours, we carefully watch them. They chase seagulls, squealing and shrieking with happiness. Tiny hands inspect seashells and drift wood. Kate’s tongue touches the sand and I see that she immediately regrets that decision. I watch my beautiful girls as they explore my favorite place.

As I stand observing, the sea beckons to me. I know that my beach going days are numbered. The hot sun is ready to take its leave and abandon us yet again. Much like me, the water will soon turn cold and gray. The sea is saying its yearly goodbye. I stand watching the waves, bigger than I’ve seen them all summer. They’re calling me to play. I walk forward and dive under a wave just as it begins curling over itself, ready to crash upon the heads of unsuspecting swimmers below. I pop up on the other side, unable to see the beach over the swell I’ve just escaped. I’m on the calm side. Huge swells lift me high into the air, and then drop me, hiding me. I can hear nothing but the sea around me and the faint screams of children as they run from the crashing surf.

Floating there, I feel exhilarated and truly free. I’m happy. I have a smile on my face that no one can see. As a wave pushes me upward, I see my mother carefully watching the girls and know that I have to leave my sanctuary and head back to the beach and the responsibilities that it holds. The sea begs me to stay, tempting me with a wild, happy ride and I lay back again. I hold my breath and dive underwater to listen to nothingness. I try to absorb the feel, taste and sound of it…of this moment, so that I can remember this feeling when the darkness begins to fall. The sea will turn dark as well. We share this trait.

In spring, as the sun begins to pull me out of my darkness, I’ll be drawn again to my ocean. Together, we will wash away the blackness. The sand will warm my feet and the waves will call me. My children will run, shrieking with delight. I’ll be alive again.