Happy Mother’s Day

Struggling to make sense of your relationship with your mother is a tale almost as old as time itself, isn’t it?

I have good news for those of you who are still in the midst of the struggle: there may come a time when you don’t.

I know it’s possible.

My mother and I have a mutual respect and a deeper love for each other, now, than I ever thought possible.

She means more to me than I could ever have imagined she would.  Much more.

That, in and of itself, is a gift of epic proportions.

So, to my mama…

Mama, I know that Ahab often gets the credit for instilling a love of The Ocean in us kids. But, I give a lot of that credit to you, too. It was you who packed us up, religiously, each and every Saturday, to head to the beach for the day. You, along with the three other mothers in our Beach Family, and enough cold tuna noodle casserole, Cheezits, and Crystal Light Iced Tea to feed an entire classroom full of children, would herd us 8 children into vans and onto the hot sand with promises of hours of unfettered free time.

I felt the most free when we were at the beach each Saturday.  You allowed me to run and swim and play and eat Cheezits until you thought I’d turn into one. And, although I now understand (OH, how I understand!) that in doing so, you also were getting some much needed breathing room yourself, I never felt more loved on than when you would allow me to just be me at the beach.  There were no comments of being ladylike, eating less, or being more like so-and-so. No. None of that. You packed us up and took us to the place where we could all get out and blow the stink off.  And you showed your love in that one act.

I am so grateful for your willingness to take us out there for fresh air and sunshine.

Grilled cheese sandwiches, with the cheese blackened on the top, are still a favorite of mine to this day.  Those and the chicken noodle soup that always accompanied it, were the only things I really remember about the times I was sick. And, I remember you lovingly (and maybe with more than a hint of frustration on the tenth and twentieth times) putting the socks back on my hands, to keep me from scratching at the chicken pox that covered my body when I was six.

I am so grateful for your tender loving care.

And I also look back on all of your attempts to take us on mother-daughter trips with a softer perspective. You desperately wanted me to want to go – shopping, out to lunch, to a movie. I can see, now, that you really just wanted us to have opportunities to do things together.

And, I’m so grateful that you tried.

I love you mama.  It took me an awful long time to realize that I am, indeed, blessed to call you “Mom”. And I want you to know how much I look forward to every new memory we carve out together in the future.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Captain Ahab’s Daughter: Part 2

Growing up, my family would caravan with a couple of other families, by boat, to the Bahamas for about three weeks every summer. I wrote about this a bit over here.  Along the way, we met with some Very High Seas, indeed.  Captain Ahab liked to call it “a little boat chop”.  Right, Nana?  And now, as an adult, I find myself understanding his comic use of understatement in those moments.  The following are some of the things I remember most from those boat trips on the way over to the islands.

It started the same way every single year. We all rolled out of bed bleary eyed bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:00 a.m.  Captain Ahab would head over to the beach and check the horizon;“Red sky at dawn, sailors warn. Red sky at night, sailors delight.”, and all that business.  If it was a go, he’d call the other families and say, “It’s a go.”

We almost always had chocolate milk and either frosted or chocolate “donettes” before loading up on the boats.  Sometimes, the Captain would make an early run to the donut shop and we’d get fresh-baked, far healthier donuts.

I believe our three or four families single-handedly kept Coppertone in business.

We drank a lot of Coca-Colas and ate a lot of Cheezits.

Anytime someone spotted a Dolphin (the “Flipper” variety), they’d get on the “horn” (radio) and announce to the entire marine community that, “There’s a dolphin! Right over there! Look!!”; because, surely, wherever in the great Atlantic ocean any other boaters were, they, too, could see our dolphin.

Keeping count of how many Flying Fish you saw was akin to the licence plate game on road trips.

We drank a lot of Dr. Peppers and ate a lot of Oreos.

Once we were old enough to do so, the adults and smallest kids would caravan in the first two or three boats (read that, the bigger boats), and they’d let us three or four oldest kids take the “dingy”. Now, this dingy was a 13′ Boston Whaler.  It wasn’t a canoe.  But when you are facing 2-4 foot seas, for three hours, it’s a bit daunting.  There were moments where we would be cresting a wave and that little boat would dip down into a crevice and I would almost swear that The Parents were all watching, a little too intently, to see if the next wave was going to slam the oblivion out of us, or if we’d make it out.  Alive. My Sweetbrother would yell “YEEHAW!” at the top of his lungs and just forge ahead through those waves like they were so many flowers in a field and he was a lawn mower.  But some of us, (me), would be holding on for dear life and wondering what in the Sam Hill we (I) did to deserve this torture?

As we became older and more stupid adventurous, we took some risks that make me shudder as a parent.  If it was a flat calm ride over, we would stop in the middle of the inky-blue 1,000-plus foot deep seas and water ski for a bit.  Yes,  water ski.  Halfway between South Florida and the Bahamas.  In the midst of the Bermuda Triangle. There.  With water skis.  And Stupidity. And, just for the record, guess what movie was number one at the box office back then?  Yup… Jaws.

One year, one of Ahab’s oldest friends, (who happened to be one of the country’s top Navy Underwater Research Diver’s at the time), and his wife, accompanied us on our yearly trip.  This poor guy’s wife was so seasick the entire trip over. The adults gave him such a hard time, cracking jokes about how “Aqua-Man” ended up with a seasick wife; only, as it turned out, the poor thing was pregnant.  So, in an act of mercy, the adults flew her back on a Chalk’s Seaplane.  So she’d be comfortable.  Because Lord knows, there’s nothing more comfortable, for a first-trimester pregnancy, than a ride on a seaplane.

When we finally arrived, the kids waited while the adults cleared everyone through customs.  And, it’s a miracle that the Bahamian authorities kept letting us come back every year.  I’m fairly certain they hurried us through customs just to stop all the caterwauling.  Or broke out the Rum as soon as they spied our boats entering their waters.  I know the parents did.

And here we are twenty-some-odd years later, and I get it.  Once again, I see the wisdom in letting kids have an “adventure” once in a while, to break up the monotony.  I now understand that teaching children games to play while on boat trips car-rides is just good parent sense.  And knowing that what lies at the end of the journey will trump even a horrible journey is a gift we give to our kids. Yes indeedy!