Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Sweet Spot

On Sunday we packed our entire family (including the dog) in the SUV  and heading on an adventure.  Don and I didn't tell the boys where we were going, but we packed a picnic and heading North to where the water was.

The other day, I posted something on Facebook about how our door to our home should be replaced with a revolving one.  During the day, when we are all home from work and school there is always someone coming or going.  Neighborhood friends, the boys, sometimes a random dog.   As much as I hate the door being slammed, I must admit, laughter adds life to a house... and chaos.
Our wedding photographer from 16 years ago commented on my post. He has never commented on anything, in fact, I forgot he was my friend. All he said was " I miss those days; they were the best of my life."

A friend of mine has five children, one is in college, and the next will be heading there next year. She just took on two foreign exchange students, because she understands the beauty in a full and busy house.

As we reached our destination which was a dog-friendly hiking trail that wound us up and down a heavily wooded path, through swamp-like mud, into sand dunes which led to Lake Michigan, to what seemed like our very own secluded lake front property.  I could actually feel the stress leave my body with every step I took.

Next year my oldest will be in high school.  I have already felt his enthusiasm for family outings start to decline.  I get it.  But I also know this is our sweet spot. This is the time of our lives we will talk about, look back on with fondness. The time we will miss. The time the boys will joke about with their future spouses when they tell them about their childhood at our big Thanksgiving dinner.  This is our sweet spot.  And I want to soak in every single drop of it.

After hours of running up and down sand dunes and putting our toes and paws in the water, we decided to return to the top to get our picnic and have lunch.

Don takes pride in leading the pack, and we all follow, and I hope ( in my head) that he knows where he was going.  I'm in the back making sure someone doesn't get distracted and veer off course. Which almost happens when we saw "Dirty Diana" carved in a bench. No joke.  It caused a big Michael Jackson discussion about how he really isn't dead.

But Don kept walking and his image was getting smaller and smaller, and I was trying to get Oscar to get moving.  He had made a sand ball out of black sand and water and told me all the treasures he had mixed into it.  But as we walked, the sand he was holding on so tightly began to dry and fall apart and slip through his hands.  He tried desperately to pick up the black sand as it dropped on the brown sand but he couldn't.  I watched as his magic sand ball fell apart before his very eyes.

Finally, he gave up hope, opened his hands and let all of it go. It blended perfectly back into the rest of the sand, and I don't know what his treasures were, but they were gone now too.   He threw himself on the ground and started a monumental tantrum that echoed across Lake Michigan. I tried to tell him that it was okay and that we could make another one at home. That didn't help. As Don was now, far gone, I pictured Oscar and myself getting lost in the woods and amber alerts for both of us.

He refused to move. He told me to go on, and he would sleep there.  He wanted to be alone. His feet were tired.  So I started up the trail and knew he would scurry to catch up at some point.
He didn't.
I turned around, and he was gone. He had gone back to the lake and was determined to make an identical sand ball.   At this point, my heart stopped for a second. Not because I thought I lost him, but moreover that he wanted to lose me.   I found him on his knees frantically scooping.

I told him he had to come with me because we needed him at lunch. That didn't work.
I told him that it was going to get dark soon.
That really didn't work.
I told him that I thought I saw a bear.
That kind of worked.
I told him that I needed him to help me find my way back.
.... and that worked.

A guy always wants to save a woman,  or at least think he did. He helped me to find our trail and eventually catch up with the rest of the family.

I know that just like Oscar's sand ball, we will not always be this close.  I left my house when I turned 18, graduated college at 22, lived on my own until 24 and then I got married.  The unit that was once my world grew in different locations and added spouses and children, but that cohesive sand ball of a family is just in my memory, and at times I miss it.

So, I know this spot we are in is bittersweet.

What never changed in my family unit was my parents.  They never went anywhere.  They stayed exactly where we could find them.

I was sitting with my brother in a recent visit and we just sat on a park bench watching people go by.  We were both working, so we didn't have our spouses, or our kids, just us, talking about a squirrel.  I'm 75% sure we had the exact same conversation on the exact same campus when he was 11 and I was 5. I know the notion of squirrel herds sounded familiar.
Our family unit has just changed shape.  The sand drifted to different places, but when it is together it is as close as it ever was.

Maybe the next four years will be just as sweet with the boys.  The unknown is what worries me.  I love our unit now. That we all fit in the same car, and that we can entertain them all with the idea of an adventure.

Eventually, Oscar and I joined the rest of the family, and Don was already dividing the sandwiches, and drinks and sides.  Wally was tied to a picnic table together.  I don't know what we talked about, but I made a mental note to never forget how good this felt.

I have turned into "one of those Moms" who get teary at the sight of her kids, for absolutely no reason.

And all I kept thinking was, it doesn't get much sweeter than this.
Oscar holding his sand ball.

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