This time feels different. The warm, squishy, dependent child that swam from my body — her legs run now. She involuntarily throws looks – simultaneously irritated and apologetic – my way when I mention anything at all that isn’t what she had in mind. And, in her literal very next breath, says mommy I want to snuggle with you. She presses her forehead to the soft space under my collarbone and falls heavy into my body, her knees arched up under my bicep, her arms draped around my neck.
She feels tiny for a moment. We both hug the tenuousness of childhood.
She wants to wear bikinis — the teenier the better. When I said no to borrowing my mascara she proudly saturated her lashes with her cousin’s lip gloss. She’s beautifully curious and rebellious. She’s admirably courageous and kind.
Strangers are fond of saying They’re beautiful. Watch out, mama. That’s trouble. I know it’s just a thing well-meaning folks always say like Well, you’ve got your hands full! when I’m checking out at the market and both children are doing carthweels. But I don’t like it. I smile and think They’re beautiful. Notice them, mama. That’s all. They got this.
Why do you want to grow up so quickly? I wonder, momentarily forgetting that I actually really remember feeling this very same way. Like summer break was as eternal as life could feel, like my newly minted wings felt unfairly held by my parents wanting me to simply check in. Or stop eating sugar already. Or drink a glass of water. Or apply sunscreen.
And then they’re babies too. My babies. Wasn’t it last week I held one on my back and one on my front? Yeah, it pretty much was. They still crawl into my lap, tell me everything, think I hung the moon and stars for them to wish upon.
We snuggle into the creaky old double bed at night, a pile of feet at the bottom. We miss Andy but wonder how this is all going to work when he arrives in a few days. I text “bring sleeping pads and more coffee” and then hold my phone overhead while walking about camp, hoping the words will magically beam to him from this one-bar shore. I feel irritated at the lack of space in bed and then suddenly feel grateful for the lack of space. Ruby breathes heavy into my temple, Margot rests her leg securely upon my hip. I touch their eyebrows and earlobes, trace my favorite freckles.
Night girls. I love you so much.
The feminist in me wants her to wear whatever motherfucking bathing suit she chooses. The mother in me wants her to not wear things that seem too grown up for a kid. This is subjective, of course, and granted to those like me who’ve navigated the relatively safe and structured waters of childhood to the stormy island of teenagedom before diving into the cool, free ocean of adulthood and have the luxury of time to think about such things.
We earn our motherly opinions and kids aren’t always meant to understand.
Because I said so. my mom used to say. I now get it.
I am sitting in the dark cool of my cabin writing this. This cabin we come to every year. Nothing changes here, this physical place my family has attended for generations. But also everything changes here. The lengthening bones of children, the graying temples of parents. I remember nursing Margot at the end of the dock when everyone was at the campfire. Now she jumps off that dock without a lifejacket and leaps around the campfire with her cousins.
It’s my memories, same as theirs. I came here a bit as a kid. My mom came here as a kid. We reengaged nine years ago, same week every year, same families every year. And on until.
Kids’ summer-hardened bare feet trotting down the gravel path, out the screened door. Water gun fights. Growing into those big teeth, learning to ride bikes from the kids who were growing into those teeth a few years ago. White sun sparked off the navy blue water and the intoxicating giggles of cousins. Inside jokes, sunbleached hair, lollipop stained lips, surging autonomy, counting crawdads, sneaking milkshakes. Wondering what it feels like to be older, remembering what it feels like to be younger. Gathering around the camp pool table, flirting with flirtation. Looking for turtles, otters, minnows, eagles and celebrating every single creature spotting as the miracle it is. Understanding the value of a clean cup and the handwork to wash it, the value of a one room cabin that has every single thing we need. Uncles and aunts and people who feel like uncles and aunts — someone always within earshot. Refusing bedtime until collapse into the warmth of a parent’s arms, hair still wet from that last jump in the lake just after the sun dunked below the mountain as the mud settled to the lake’s bottom only to be again churned by tomorrow’s big living.
I got you. You got me.
There was word that the the camp planned to take out this old dead tree in front of the cabin we rent every year. So these girls started a petition called The Tree of Generations and collected 39 signatures from fellow campers. Turns out it was rumor. And a wildly successful initiative.
- Photos are from two different lakes. The supremely clear lake with big mountains is Flathead Lake. My godparents have a house there on the west side, out on Rocky Point and we visited for a day. The other lake where the cabin is located is top secret. wink wink xo
- Our family adventures are gratefully sponsored by our local Honda dealership, Denny Menholt University Honda. Follow our road trips on instagram with #digthisadventure.
- My current favorite podcasts to listen to when the kids are asleep in the car: Invisibilia and Modern Love.
- My favorite camping reading light, a gift from my friend Caroline.
- When my kids are awake, we all like to listen to Bill Harley always. Also Naya Nuki is our recent favorite book on tape. We’ve listened many times.
- We’ve put our Hippie First Aid Kit to great use this summer! I’m pretty proud of this creation and I’d love to put one together for you.
- I am reading Hold Still by Sally Mann. An influence of my art when I was in school, I’ve long admired her art. Now, as a mother and writer and artist, I am finding new connection and inspiration from her memoir. I recommend!
- My girls are reading Critter Club and Smile and The Adventures of Sophie Mouse.
You captured perfectly these strange, strange days – watching them grow, and knowing they’re still little. Being the “grown up”, but feeling, remembering what is was to be little. It’s odd to hold it all in our hands at the same time, but makes life so rich. ❤️ xo