Is there anything cuter than a baby crawling on the beach?I remember when Jack was a crawling baby and we lived in Delaware. We rented a beach condo for a week on the Jersey shore in Avalon. It was quite a chore setting up four small children in a condo for a beach week. It was really our first solo adventure as a vacationing family. All of our trips before that beach week had been to visit family. Our time together that weeks slit a hole open through the hard work of being a mom with four small children at home, and I could have a glimpse into our future and see how much fun having a large family would be for us. It was an encouraging week. Even now I shudder to remember how hard I worked in those days. Those days felt like I had the basement corner office. I hoped someday I’d have a top floor, corner office with a nice view…like I do now.
Last Saturday, while in Florida, we spent maybe two hours at the beach in the afternoon with Kira. She was captivated by the experience of being on the beach, feeling the sand, eating it, hearing the waves crash into shore, and feeling the cold water cover her feet. The white sand sprinkled on her dark skin was a beautiful sight. We were quite a spectacle, as usual; as the casual beach lounger watched us pale folks introduce our African princess to the wonders of the ocean. Many came to see her sweet face and tell us how precious she was to behold. One retired photographer asked if he could take our photo with my camera. I think he was more thrilled to handle my equipment than anyone I’ve met before. He insisted on knowing what I did for a living. I told him, “I am mama to five children and we travel the world”. He didn’t believe me about the five children part. No one ever does. Sometimes I don’t.
We went back to the condo where Mom and Dad first lived on Anna Maria Island. During those years we had many LaTorre family reunions at that beach spot. All of our children were little and the top floor of that condo shook with running, jumping , falling children. Standing there on the strip of beach in front of that condo with the same view as ever before to the right and left flooded in the memories of my days as a young mama.
I enjoyed feeling the memories of early reunions return as much as I enjoyed seeing Kira experience the sights and sounds of the ocean for her first time. I can clearly close my eyes and see Don and Carol as the Victorian couple settling their baby Emily on a beach blanket slathering sunscreen over her and fitting a floppy pink hat on her head to protect her from the sun.
As I watched Emily in those days as a toddler playing with her cousins, getting put down for naps, and being taught table
manners, my own arms cradling a baby Donny, I could never have fathomed the relationship she and I would have today. I treasure being her Aunt more than I ever thought possible. All together I have eleven nieces and nephews. Being the faraway Aunt they see once a year is most unsatisfying, but better than nothing. I’ve never really formulated in my mind what I should be as an Aunt. I have instead just carefully watched each individual relationship and hoped for a special spontaneous connection. I refuse to contrive one. It’s wonderful when it happens. I know they all like to reunite with my boys, so mostly I am the “one” who brings the fun cousins. Now they are eager to meet Kira, but I also hope seeing me will have some resonance of good memories and fun times as well. I don’t think these moments can be forced or premeditated. I only hope for that special little spark. I just love it when it happens because then we share a real moment to always remember.
(this is Emily and Donny!)
Strangely, it’s been eighteen years of my role as mama, and I can say I don’t feel like I am much older today than I was then. I am so thankful I can heft a big baby in my arms all day and not have a sore back or become weary with the effort. I’m as strong as ever, thank goodness. All those years of exercise and strength training weren’t performed in vain. I knew I was in training for something! And now I know it was to chase after a crawling baby on the beach as I become closer to 45 than I am to 40. I never knew it would be possible to feel as good at this age as I do. It’s reinforcement to the exercise, nutrition and rest rituals I practice. I wonder if I’ll be able to say the same thing when 60, 70, and 80 roll around. I hope the motto, “use it or lose it” proves true. I plan to “use it” until I drop. Especially considering I now have an entire orphanage in Uganda calling me Mama, they need me to be strong so I can keep up with the traveling, and hard living conditions of an African woman. I can do it.