There’s almost nothing like the ocean to punctuate time, especially when you’re temporarily living on an island which is inaccessible during high tide. The necessity of planning is as explicit and unavoidable as the tide chart adhered to the fridge with a magnet.
When the tide is out there’s the shallowest of tidal pools under the bridge, barely enough water to carve the silty bottom of the marsh into rivulets. When that tide rolls in, though? That’s a different story. The salt water flows in and submerges the almost garishly green marsh grasses. The bridge becomes a launching pad for the neighborhood adrenalin seekers, some complete with choreographed group dances and cheeky chants. There’s a remarkable difference between the two extreme states of the tide, yet it is predictable and easily planned for – just refer to the chart. It’s there in black and white.
This year, for the first time in a long time, we’re vacationing with a baby, and for the first time ever – it’s a girl. She was present (in utero) last year, but nothing really prepared me for sharing a house with a baby again, especially a busy baby on the verge of walking. Like childbirth, you just forget what was demanded by those days, it was simply survival when you were in the thick of it. The minute details (each of which seemed ever so critical at the time) of taking care of a child have disappeared faster than a sandbar in a rising tide.
Despite promises made, be it to yourself, your child(ren), or the well-intentioned older person offering advice, just like you’ve heard your entire life those early days of parenting/babyhood go far faster than could ever be imagined. There was no punctuation to mark the end of that chapter of parenting. It’s gone, and unlike the tide it won’t be back.
This year my middle son chose to only stay in Massachusetts for one of the two weeks of our vacation. He wanted to be home, hanging with his friends and practicing lacrosse. I felt that I needed to respect his preference and, for me, it was an exercise in letting him go. I was okay with the decision, but I’m less able to accept the fact that 2012 may have been the last year that my boys and I would be together for a two-week vacation at the beach. How could that even be possible without some sort of acknowledgement? Where’s the chart to refer to for important things like that?