We had a great day yesterday. We met with friends at the beach, and it was one of those rare days when everything just goes right. The kids played together so nicely, the weather was postcard perfect, nobody got sunburned or bee-stung or lost.
We buried the kids in the sand, packing the brown sugar over their little brown bodies until just two little heads poked out. Then I tickled Selam’s toes to make her set herself free. The kids made indeterminate items in the sand, jumped in the gentle waves, filled each others’ swimsuits with sand, and made us buy food that they then didn’t eat. When we all four ran into the water, the seagulls attacked the remains of our lunch, causing our beachy neighbor (the family in the blue tent) to come tell us to rescue our cold french fries. As the sun started to take its leave from the highest spot in the sky, the kids buried all their toys –and shoes–in the sand. The lifeguards left, taking down the flags, and dragging them into their shed, together with the white rescue board and the tubes. The snack bar closed up shop, and the onion ring smell began to dissipate. The crowd thinned. Suddenly ravenous, the children demanded snacks. I had nothing with me, since my nutritious offering of pringles was long gone, but luckily S had a 7-11’s worth of treats for the kids. Selam climbed into my lap and ate her animal crackers. The sun sparkled on the nearly flat water before us. “I’m eating a giraffe,” she’d announce.
We had to make the kids dig all their toys and shoes out of the sand, which was not nearly as much fun as burying their things, especially when the shoes were hard to find. Finally, everything was unearthed, and the chairs were folded and the trash dispatched to the trash can. We trudged back to the cars, urging the kids onward with promises of turtles and snakes at the nature center. Sadly, the nature center was closed, but the kids looked in the windows happily (I told you it was an amazing day–not a tantrum to be had). We changed, had a drink, blew bubbles and tried to fly a kite.
I convinced my non-fish loving friends to go to Lenny and Joe’s, a local fish joint that I love. There is a sit-down one that we go to often, but this one is a drive-in–or not–it’s called the drive in. I think it was a drive-in once upon a time. We took our plates to a large picnic area out back, lit up with sparkly lights and over-excited children. The merry-go-round twinkled to our side, and people walked around with old fashioned cherry-dip cones. Next to us, an elderly quartet laid out a plastic table-cloth and cracked open a bottle of wine. We watched a woman with impossibly high heels try to navigate the rocky picnic area. Somewhere a baby giggled, a toddler screamed, a large crowd burst into laughter. We waited in a long line for ice-cream and merry-go-round tickets.
Sated with ice cream, we watched as the kids climbed onto the merry-go-round. It is a small carousel, an antique, I suspect. The horses hang by chains from the roof, but are not attached at the bottom. As the merry-go-round moves, the kids sway out to the side, grabbing at the brass rings on the perimeter. Each revolution revealed Selam grinning wildly and displaying her catch. Her buddy W got the blue ring, which earned him an extra ride. Before the puppy dog eyes could fill up, I got in line for another ticket. The two got back in line. It was dark now, and the powdery air felt chilly on my arms. The kids climbed up on the cage surrounding the merry go round and were so entranced that they lost their place in line. Maybe this was on purpose. Nobody wanted the night to end. They finally rode, and grabbed for the brass rings, and dutifully grinned for the cameras. Off the ride, Selam announced, “I’m tired.” W didn’t admit the same, but I suspect he didn’t make it to the highway before falling asleep. We bundled them into cars and drove away in the night, one car going north, and one south on the big highway.
The moon was spectacular in the clear sky, a perfect waxing sliver. “Look at the moon,” I told Selam. “W and his mama see the same one as they drive home. Gramma and Bapa see the same moon, and Aunt J and Unka T and Cousin C and Cousin B” “And Etopia?” “Yes, and Etopia.” “And even in Colorado.” My heart seized. “Yes, in Colorado,too.”
When we went to a wedding in Colorado, there was a spectacular sky. I didn’t know that she remembered it.
In Colorado, under the same moon, families were fending off reporters, calling funeral homes, and wandering in the vast valley of grief. In Colorado, under the same moon, Christian Educators were reading the articles about how to do a children’s sermon on the Sunday after the Friday. In Colorado, under the same moon, those that know a certain young man were wondering why and how, what they had missed, what they had seen. It was light-years away from a beach and a merry-go-round and a cherry dipped cone. Light years away and under the same moon.
“The moon is really a circle, Mommy.” “Yes.” “It just only shows us some of it some of the time. and all of it some of the time.”
She was dropping off. The wheels turned on the highway, and the car smelled of sunscreen and salt and joy and grief. On the radio, Someone wants someone to call her maybe, and the same moon shone on us. I followed that sliver onward to the bright lights and tall buildings of the city I now call home.
She woke up as we pulled up to the building. I carried her inside anyway. “Mommy,” she mumbled.
“It’s okay that I didn’t get the blue ring.”
“It was such a happy day.”
She fell back asleep. I carried her inside, and put her in bed. From her window, I could see that moon, looking yellow and pale against the city lights.
It was a happy day.