Tuesday, July 5, 2011


We celebrated the Fourth of July at my parents' cottage in Hanford Bay, NY. Before we left, I stuffed the truck to the gills with backpacks, beach bags, towels, pillows, and snacks (those 45 minute drives are almost unbearable without nourishment). It looked like we were setting off for a two week excursion. But, really we were going to only be gone for the day. The part of me which is constantly needled by anxiety, worries that the children will actually go through five outfits in an 8 hour period. The Mr. scoffs at my laundry piles as he hands me his two contributions: swim trunks and jeans (to help keep the mosquitoes away at nightfall). But, as we were leaving the cottage to walk to the beach, The Mr., who had been holding The Baby on his hip, stopped in his tracks. "Why am I all wet?" Apparently swim diapers are great at keeping water from getting into the diaper but not so great at keeping pee from escaping the diaper. He was dumbfounded,"I only packed one shirt. I asked myself, 'Why in the world would I ever need to change my shirt?'" I pointed to a ground in blob of yogurt from The Baby's lunch that graced the strap of my tank top. I always assume there will be a need for an extra shirt.

Perhaps a more essential item to me than spare clothes is my camera. It (or one of its predecessors) has accompanied me to the beach for the past 8 years, arresting moments I worry may flee my memory. I am not by any means a great photographer. But I do enjoy collecting images of my family. What is not worthy to print- is saved for my illustrations. Last year, with an infant in my arms it was almost impossible for me to capture a steady shot. The result was 100 pictures that could induce vertigo on even the most stable vestibular system. This year I learned that with a toddler in tow, I needed two hands, quick reflexes and a husband at the ready in case she toppled into the surf. Which she did. With great enthusiasm.

Immediately after I took this picture, a wave bowled her over. She begged for more.



I always have my camera- Princess Commando always has a bucket for beach glass and interesting rocks.

Sometimes when I am behind the camera, I forget to indulge the rest of my senses in the occasion at hand. I neglect to acknowledge the tactile memories created by slippery rocks under bare feet, wet sand laced with finely crushed zebra mussel shells between my toes, or even the incandescence of the sun on my skin. I forget to take slow, deep  breaths  to appreciate the air- much more pure than the urban ozone I am accustomed to. I forget to be a player in the experience instead of just an observer- through a lens. There is a time and a place for that. But, I recognized yesterday as I regarded The Mr. creating new encounters for the children (showing Henry how to throw a football on the beach, creating a moat around The Baby and filling it with water for her to splash in) that I was not being fully present. So, I made the decision to put my camera away when we returned to the cottage after dinner.

It felt uncomfortable, unnatural at first. I wanted to capture the moment when The Baby was encountering my cousin's fiance, a lovely young man who approached her with great tenderness. She appraised him with what appeared to be hesitation. But, The Mr. and I exchanged a knowing look. She was starstruck. She thought that she was meeting DJ Lance Rock from Yo Gabba Gabba. She was waiting for him to say, " Fourth of July isssss Awesoooooome!" But, that moment like so many other small moments of the evening is imprinted on my brain. The vision of the children decked out in their neon glowing jewelry ( including glow glasses) chasing each other on the beach; the sight of the sliver of the moon hanging low and spilling a trail of milky luminescence on the water; the dramatic exhibition of 9ft tall bonfires burning down the length of the beach; the spectacle of fireworks; the fantasy-like scene of hundreds of paper lanterns, mini hot air balloons embarking on a journey through the sky; the view of The Baby clapping gleefully at each sonorous boom- have all left an indelible mark on my mind. I felt, for the first time in a long time, fully immersed in the experience.

With my hands free, my arms were open to envelop Henry who was starting to feel the chill in the air (you can pack them a hoodie, but you can't make them bring it to the beach). Next summer, he may exceed me in height. But last night he tried with great diligence to curl in my lap like a St. Bernard curling into the bed of a shih ztu. He let out a sigh, looked up at me through his goofy glowing glasses, flashed me a grin and said, "I could stay here forever." Ahhh. No photograph could ever replicate the incredible sweetness and peace I felt at that moment.

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