jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

The Fin Fell Off My Paddleboard and Other Metaphors For Our Thirteenth Anniversary

My fin fell off my paddleboard. There was a gentle breeze, an overcast sky, and right next to the rock where the cormorants pose, I dug my paddle in the water to turn my board into the inlet and felt it spin in place.

I switched sides with my paddling and the rotation reversed. I was at a loss.

I had a Plan. I had Goals. I was planning to paddle all the way around the island.

And now I was rudderless, finless, turning lazy circles in front of the bemused cormorants. I spent 25 minutes slowly spinning around the cove in search of my fin in the shallows. From the sky I must have looked like a white and red pinwheel with a Momkini striped center.

It wasn’t at all as I’d pictured.

By the time I’d lugged my finless board back to the house I was positively dejected.

“Mama’s home! You went around so fast!”

“The fin… (sniff)… fell off my board.”

It was all I could do not to cry and all my husband could do to keep from laughing.

The board had been a tenth anniversary gift to each other three years before. Until we’d realized that I positively love walking on water and my husband’s broad shoulders turned him into an ungainly windsurfer. Then it became a gift for me.

“Action plan, Jen,” he insisted.

And off I went to the L.L.Bean in Freeport, Maine. And apropos of the state mascot, it became a Give-a-Moose-a-Muffin Day.

Kids in fish tank

The kids in the fish tank.
July 2015

I wanted to paddle around the island, but I needed a new fin. So I went to Freeport, but there was a parade blocking the street. So we stayed on the other side of the street and bought flip flops and first day of school dresses at the Children’s Place Outlet. When we finally crossed the street (after the kids on John Deere tractors and the old lady kazoo and banjo band riding on a flatbed truck had gone by), we realized there was a fish tank filled with trout we had to see at the far end of the L.L.Bean complex, then everyone had to use the bathrooms on the opposite end of L.L.Bean. On the way home we needed to stop at the grocery store and I ran over the back of my daughter’s heel with the cart. The screams echoing through the dairy aisle were a metaphor for my soul.

When we got home it was time for the island 4th of July Ice Cream Social. Then my husband and the kids went fishing off those rocks where the cormorants had witnessed my downfall, while I prepared dinner on the deck. Later that night we stood together in pajamas and watched the fireworks set off across the cove by drunk lobsterman and other friends and neighbors.

The next morning we trudged onward, planning a picnic. We packed chicken salad and broccoli and a couple of beers and somewhere in the middle of all that, I checked my phone to see a text message from my sister wishing us a happy 13th wedding anniversary. I laughed out loud.

We’d entirely forgotten our 13th anniversary.

And so I grabbed the small gifts I’d gotten my husband weeks before and tucked them in the bottom of our picnic bag: an antique boot-shaped door knocker for his studio and a pair of small red metal hearts.

Girl on beach with rocks

Building rock castles
July 2015

On the rocky beach on the opposite side of the island the kids played in the crashing surf while my husband fished. We collected scraps of lobster trap for his paintings and had a contest stacking rocks with promised s’mores as prizes for originality, height, and most rocks used.

Me and Pile of rocks on beach

Jen building castles in the fog
July 2006

These were the same towers we’d built on another windswept beach on our fourth anniversary, the summer we’d come to terms with never getting pregnant, with being each other’s everything in the face of infertility. It had been a fog-enclosed vacation, a week in a gorgeous house on a bluff, where the roar of this other ocean had been constant in our ears, but all we ever saw was the thick white fog that had settled around us both like an ocean-scented quilt.

Foggy day, woman in distance

Jen, lost in the fog
July 2006

Eight years later, on a different ocean we were watching our kids pile their rocks.

Unpacking dinner, my husband grabbed the bag of gifts hidden under the thermos of mojitos, sippy cups of milk and bin of broccoli.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Happy anniversary!” I said, pretending I’d remembered all along.

And we laughed at having forgotten our anniversary. Later still, we returned to the house for a quiet family evening around the firepit with s’mores.

And just as we were beginning to toast the marshmallows, friends showed up with a bottle of wine and a child desperate to play. Then the neighbor’s grandkids and friends’ kids came over and like a pack of coyotes, twelve children scrambled through the joined yards chasing each other in the dusk.

Some of their people came up to our fire to get away from the kids and some of our people went down to their yard for the cornhole and the sausages.

Someone suddenly hollered, “You all are missin’ the sunset!”

And everyone paused and glanced up for a moment to see the sun disappear behind the cormorants at the entrance to the cove.

Then back to our friends and laughter, bean bag throwing and baby carrying. The boys tore down the girls’ fort and the girls chased them through the yard. The kids acquired band aids and Popsicles, the adults toasted with wine or beer or whatever the day required.

Couple facing out to sea

Thirteen years married
July 2015

Thirteen years married is this. It is a finless paddleboard, it is a Give a Moose a Muffin day, it is an Action Plan and a pile of rocks built in the face of infertility, socked in by fog, or on a sunlit beach by a quartet of tow-headed kids. It is fireworks some days, catching no fish on others. It is planning a quiet family evening but instead finding yourself amidst a pack of children lit gold by the setting sun accompanied by the sounds of a ringer sinking a three-pointer in the cornhole game.

It is love, laughter, and friendship, and a pair of hearts held in the hands.

It was a forgotten anniversary, yes. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Two hearts in hands

Two hearts in the hand…
July 2015

(And by the way, I did eventually paddle the whole island, and it only took me two hours. Well, two days, a trip to L.L. Bean, thirteen years, and two glorious, peaceful hours.)

P.S. My husband surprised me with tickets to see U2 next week for our anniversary. Who said romance is dead?

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17 comments on “The Fin Fell Off My Paddleboard and Other Metaphors For Our Thirteenth Anniversary

  1. zunidhi
    July 10, 2015

    Reblogged this on OPTIMISM.

  2. kellylmckenzie
    July 10, 2015

    Happy, Happy Anniversary! Sounds like a lovely day from start to FINish. May you have any, many more.

    • jgroeber
      July 10, 2015

      Ah, I chuckled out loud at your wit! FINish. Ha! And it was a pretty great day (except there was s mid-morning apocalyptic meltdown I didn’t mention. Also, the 4th of Julh parade was a bit crazy. Otherwise, a very good day!)

  3. Burns the Fire
    July 10, 2015

    Just beautiful. All of it and all of you. Happy Anniversary!!

  4. lingeringvisions by Dawn
    July 10, 2015

    Happy Anniversary

    • jgroeber
      July 10, 2015

      Thank you for the well wishes. Considering we totally forgot it, it was a pretty darn good day!

  5. Matt
    July 10, 2015

    Always beautiful. Always. Happy anniversary, you.

    Lucky #13.

    Have an awesome time at U2, please!

    • jgroeber
      July 10, 2015

      Lucky #13 it is. And thank you for the thoughtful well wishes and (always) kind words.
      Can’t wait for U2. Even though they’re older than me… and that’s old. My 22-year-old babysitter insists it’s still a cool concert and I’ve chosen to believe we’re still hip, although I know better. Ha!

  6. Jennifer Berney
    July 15, 2015

    So, normally I travel to the east coast with my kids every summer, and normally we spend some big chunk of that in Main, but this year I opted out. (Thought it would be good to skip flying with a 2-year-old.) Anyhow, thank you for this post, because now I feel like I still made it to Maine this summer, only I got the best parts and didn’t have to fly.

    • jgroeber
      July 20, 2015

      Ha! Know that Maine still awaits you. The smell of rotten clam low tide, the deep, deep fog, the cold wind just when you weren’t expecting it, the mussels the kids bring home for you to cook up for dinner but you didn’t even know to check for red tide.
      It’s a mere flight away still. Jes’ sayin’.

  7. themomoftheyear
    July 29, 2015

    We celebrated our 13th not too long ago too and I get it–this was the perfect way to spend it 🙂

    • jgroeber
      July 31, 2015

      Ha! Thank you for that. And happy belated 13th anniversary to you, too.

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