Not sure if I need permission (I’ll apologize in advance), but I want to re-post this blog post from Kelsea, who is one of four sisters with this blog. For some reason, I’ve been reflecting lately on my boys as babies, children, teens, and men. Maybe it’s because I saw a couple of photos of them lately with their beautiful wives and they look so happy and content; maybe it’s because I’ve been working with old pictures getting prepped for Christmas presents. Whatever the reason, I came across this blog post, and like so many women out there, I wish I’d written it years ago to my now wonderful daughters-in-law:To My Future Daughter-in-Law
Fourth of July is so bittersweet nowadays. At 61 years of age, I have lots of them to look back on, but by far the strongest memory for me, and I’m sure for all my 10 siblings and various cousins, is 4th of July at my grandparents’ cottage. As far back as I can remember, my dad has led a parade of children across the lawn and around the house, marching to the music of George M. Cohen pounded out on the piano by my Aunt Binnie. What started in the 1950’s as a cute idea for a handful of children — “Hey, how about a little parade with the kids?!” — has grown over the years to a tradition that spans generations.
“You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Over There.” We learned these songs as youngsters and sang them heartily, marching in a line kept straight by a string of gas station flags. Oldest to youngest, growing in number every year, we would imitate dad as he sang and zig-zagged around the huge lawn, kicking up his leg here and there, yelling, “Tighten up that line!” Down the stone steps (“Slow down!”) and along the shore of Lake Huron, the neighbors would pile out of their homes to watch us, singing and clapping along.
Of course, as we grew older, we were embarrassed by the show. “What would people think? We’re too old for this now. I’ll just watch.” No way. There was no sitting out, and if you brought a friend along, they were in, too. And so year after year, the tradition continued. With the oldest directly behind dad and the youngest often on an adult’s shoulders, the parade went on, sometimes nearly 30 of us in tow, singing, laughing, kicking up our legs,and just being silly, following the silliest of them all.
Our last 4th of July parade was held at my little cottage in Gaylord, but this time, dad was sitting it out. He had suffered a stroke the year before that left him unable to walk. But that didn’t stop him from singing the old songs, watching as his grown kids, his grandkids and even some great-grandkids marched alongside the deck for his review. “Tighten up that line!” we heard, as everyone lined up to pledge allegiance to the flag. I think many of us knew it would be our last parade with dad. I keep that picture in my heart and in my mind, but the melancholy it causes fades as I recall the wonderful memories of my youth, number 8 in line behind my sister and in front of my cousin, holding tight to the rope and waving our flags, singing and laughing as our parade leader set the tone and marched on.
Whenever my Sarah plans a visit with me, I approach it the same way I approach anything that can change: Make a plan, but don’t plan on it. And while we sort of laugh at that fact, we both know it’s true, and we’re both okay with it. So when she told me months ago that she wanted to come down in April, I said, “Sure!” And then I didn’t hold my breath. But after inviting her daughter Emma and Em’s boyfriend, Jamee, I thought it just might happen. And it did!
Thursday night to Sunday isn’t a very long visit, but we seemed to pack a lot into that short time. We went all over beautiful historic St. Augustine, seeing Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (very cool), riding the trolley, shopping up and down St. George St, and enjoying a wonderful lunch at an outdoor cafe. Friday night was dinner al fresco at The Golden Lion, Saturday found us at the beach for hours and hours having a great time in and out of the water. Emma and Jamee were a happy and welcome addition to the fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Em all grown up. Thom had eager boogie-boarders in Emma and Jamee, and the two of them took to it like old pros.
Sunday, of course, came too soon, but even those couple of days with my BFF was just what I needed to get me through to August when I’ll see her again.
During Meg’s spring visit last month she told me of a discovery she’d found buried in her email from many years earlier. She had been spending the summer in Savannah, Georgia, doing her internship for her sonography certification. She and I had driven down in the spring and got her set up in an apartment (long story here). What transpired that summer in Savannah is best forgotten, at least by me. But apparently she kept the emails that flowed back and forth during that time, and after re-reading them, she called me, all these years later, to first apologize and then to thank me. She apologized for the hell she put me through from a thousand miles away; the drama, the tears, the guilt. Then she thanked me for putting up with the drama, the tears, and the guilt. In her words, “I can’t believe what I put you through!” I can say without hesitation, that was music to my ears!
Anyone who has had a teenage daughter can probably relate in some way to this story. Some of my friends who still have teenage daughters no doubt wonder if ‘it’ will ever end – “it” being the drama, the know-it-all attitude, the tears, the guilt. But I am here to tell you it does end. They do grow up. They do become your friend, someone to talk with, share with, laugh with, cry with; someone to send you gifts for no reason, call you up just to see how you are, even someone to give some much-needed advice when you least expect it.
The older Meg gets, the closer we get. Maybe it’s because inside I feel like I’m still in my 30’s and she’s just beginning that era. I don’t know. I only know that the old adage is so very true:
A son is your son til he takes a wife. A daughter’s your daughter the rest of your life!
Even though this is the sunshine state, one never knows for sure if the weather is going to cooperate when you have company; especially when that company involves small children. I did my best to arrange things we could do outdoors, and with the help of some great friends, I was able to procure two more bikes and a bike stroller. The ocean is always there, so now we just needed some sunshine and warmth. And God provided!
Drew and family arrived late Sunday night, so after a little adjustment, the kids went to bed without too much ado. Morning actually came later than expected, and after a MOTOWN BREAKFAAAAAST! we decided to try the bikes. Thom had to work, so it was left to Drew and I to prepare the tires, seat heights, etc. We had one glitch that we overcame with a little ingenuity on Drew’s part, and off we went, kids trailing happily behind their dad. Leading the way and with Kristin bringing up the rear, I looked back and couldn’t help myself grinning from ear to ear and saying a silent “thank you, God!” to the beautiful sunshine above.
Some time at the playground and a quick trip to show my kids off to my co-workers, and we were back home for lunch, naps, and finally a trip to the ocean. Thom was already there with the umbrella set up, in his wetsuit and in the chilly water. The waves were great but the water was COLD! Drew tried a couple times to go in, finally saying he couldn’t do it; he was already feeling “hypothermic.” But watching how much fun Thom was having and being ‘this close’ to the action, he resigned himself to becoming numb and took the plunge! Standing on the warmth of the shore we could NOT believe he went for it! After a few failed attempts to catch a wave, he timed it perfectly and caught right on. We watched for over half an hour as he and Thom fought and caught the huge breakers in that chilly Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, the kids, especially Dez, enjoyed playing at the shoreline, running from the waves or jumping as they crashed. Dez was a slippery little thing, and he did have a couple scares, but all in all he had a ball. I was in heaven watching Drew in the water, Kris and the grandkids on the beach, and the pelicans and gannets soaring and diving, all creating wonderful entertainment!
The next couple days flew by with more biking, beaching, shelling, swinging, dancing, bubble-blowing, chalk-drawing, crying (yes) and laughing. Meals in and meals out were a great success with the kids behaving beautifully. Drew said the best part for him was it was the first time in four years he and Kristin were both able to sleep in after 7:00 am!
It was a perfect visit. Thom and I had a great time, and I think Kris, Drew, Dez and Evie did, too.
Gotta love the salt life!
More photos here: