4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
The marsh grass along the path to the beach is just beginning to turn orange at the edges. It’s a subtle thing, like a gray hair at your temple, but it heralds so much more. I try to think of August as the last third of summer, but really, what it is is the end of summer.
Time is passing.
Earlier this week I slipped out of bed, into my bathing suit and then out the door, only to find the air had turned surprisingly chilly for such a sunny morning. It felt too late to turn back for my t-shirt, too much of a risk of waking my children or husband. And so I shivered down to the cove with my paddleboard, quickly hopped on, and then paddled around to the inlet avoiding the pockets of cooler air in the shadows along the coast.
Walking back up to the house later, lugging my dripping board and my still chickeny cold skin, I saw our neighbor, the lobsterman, heading out to his pick-up truck.
“It’s stupid cold,” he remarked, glancing at my dripping board and the faded top of my old, blue mom-kini.
Yes, I thought. Stupid cold for sure.
“Might be time for a wetsuit,” he finished.
It is no longer June. Time is passing.
The lullabies I sang my children in the early summer, Thunder Road, Forever, Only You, Old Cape Cod, they’ve grown as weary as my salt-crusted mom-kini by now, faded and wrinkling funny where the elastic has become tired. And so the other night I added in Summer Nights from Grease.
It was one of my older sister’s first albums, and when she wasn’t around, eight-year-old me would place it onto my father’s turntable and then sing each song with dramatic flourishes and leaps from the hassock. When I finally saw the movie I was struck by how very little of the summer there was in it. There was just a beachy snippet at the beginning showing those halcyon days of Danny’s and Sandy’s first love and making out under the dock. Then, ah, it turned colder, that’s where it ends. And all this as a preface to a movie based in school?!
Even as a kid I knew. The real deal, that happened in summer.
And this week I watched my sister’s daughters run along the beach with my kids, taking turns on the paddle board and collecting beach glass with their Mom. In between moments of childish abandon, they talked about Twitter and senior yearbook photos, AP classes and driving.
I remember when they were little girls, like my little girls. I’m certain it was ten minutes ago. And I remember when my sister and I were their age digging clams together in Cape Cod, although she and I have more years between us and were certainly never so effortlessly lovely or composed. But we were that young only yesterday, I swear.
The other new song I started to sing as a lullaby to my children was inexplicably from Fiddler on the Roof. I sing it with a kvetching Yiddish accent in my sturdy tenor voice as we lay in the darkness together. I learned this song back when my sister was in the pit orchestra in high school.
Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older, when did they?
Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the days.
And so this morning with the chill already in the air I pulled out a faded long-sleeve running shirt and threw it over my mom-kini. The fiddler song was in my head, of course, and the goldenrod clustered at the edge of the marsh grass prophesied the coming of fall, the tug of everything around me towards this hyper-paced, brilliantly colored autumn thing that shoves the faded days of summer out of the way.
I thought about how Indian Summer is a lie, a false sense that things are not headed to icicles in a few months even though we know they are. No. Indian Summer is merely the memory of what summer has been, a teasing warm caress that won’t stay. But this strangely stupid cold burst of days we were presented with, this was an inversion of Indian Summer. This was truthfulness, bright crisp and cold. We still have a handful of warm summer lovin’ days ahead, but fall is imminent. Winter is not far behind, one season following another.
When I tucked back into the cove again, a miraculous thing had happened. That glorious sunrise had heated the air, and the cliffs along the edge of the cove had craddled this warm cloud of summer just so. I took off my old running shirt and tied it around my waist and paddled through the lobster boats still at their moorings. As I finished my paddle I watched for my neighbor.
Look, it’s not quite Indian Summer, I wanted to say. No wetsuit here. The summer still has a few more good days left.
But deep inside, I feel the tug. Time is passing nonetheless.
Sunrise sunset. Sunrise sunset. Swiftly fly the years
One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.