Witness to History

Some summers amble by with the usual of activities and happenings; trips to the beach, BBQs with friends, a little canoeing,  a whole lot of swimming, some berry-picking and s’mores-making. All good things, but maybe nothing that sticks out as momentous.

And then there are those summers that contain things you know you will remember, happily, for a good, long time. This was one of those summers for me. No doubt, when I describe these little life events, your world will not be rocked in any way, shape or form, but we have all been here. More pointedly, when you step back and recognize that you are actually witnessing a little piece of someone’s history-especially when it is that of your own child-it is awesome. Awesome in a teeny-yet-memory-cataloguing way; you know how you can remember the exact way your Prom dress looked and even how you felt wearing it but you can’t remember what you ate for breakfast this very morning? That kind of memory. And awesome in the way that it adds to a person’s life-experiences and makes them who they are.

Two things stuck out for my own girls this summer…

First event: my older daughter attended sleep-away camp for the first time. Being a kid (myself) who never went off to camp (save for one weekend camping adventure with the Girl Scouts when I was about 9 which resulted in an utter lack of sleep due to a rather talkative whippoorwill in some nearby tree and my Mom, who chaperoned, declaring that she’s “never been so cold in my life”) , yet knowing that this is something that “all the kids do now”, I was preparing to face this. Part of me really was banking on our first BIG separation being when she goes off to college.  I’m just joking (uh, not really). Ok, ok, I knew camp would happen at some point, especially since the hubby went to years and years of Boy Scout camp back-in-the-day and remembers it fondly. I knew, too, that  it would be a good experience and I was also game to live vicariously through her on this one.

So, off she went with one of her besties for a week of camp. Drop-off day was nothing short of a clip from a John Hughes film. All the parents were huddled in lines (“Is this the right line? Is there where we bring medications? Damn, I forgot to pay the balance!”), awaiting the magical sign-in time, kids were looking all-at-once nervous, excited, mortified by doting parents and eager to get on with their camp fun. Parents were lugging all manner of Tupperware bins, boxes, suitcases (daughter’s was so big that one passing parent asked if we had an extra person in ours. “Yes”, I replied. “My husband. He wants a week at camp.”), sleeping bags and pillows. The faint scent of campfire was in the air. Kisses on cheeks,  sneaking in photos without embarrassing your camper, parents not quite willing to go, some getting back in cars as fast as their feet could carry them and some, like myself, wishing that there was an adult version of this somewhere. Camp for me and my Besties. Not some kind of frou-frou spa, but not quite as “rustic” as this one…something in between and lovely for the 40-something set. Rustic cabins, nice beds, kayaking, good showers and food a must, campfires every night, munchies and Margaritas. You get the delightful picture dancing in my head.

I drove away completely jealous, needless to say. And a bit sad. My girl was going to sleep-away camp! That… must… mean…. that she’s not so little anymore. Yes, yes it does. But I ultimately drove away happy because she was fine with me leaving. Fine in a confident-I’ve-got-this, Mom sort of way. And I was also happy because I knew that I just witnessed her very first moments at sleep-away camp and she will remember this for the rest of her life.

Second Event: Younger daughter learns to ride a two-wheeler! We, as parents, all have these Kid-To-Do lists constantly circulating in our heads from Day One. Damn those “What to Expect” books, because for the rest of their life it has you thinking in timelines: first time holding head up, first time eating solid foods, walking, using the potty and eventually, mimicking your cursing from the back seat of the car as a driver cuts you off and you swear a blue-streak. You know, the big moments.

Bike riding is one of them. At the beginning of the summer, my daughter, when I broached the subject of it, said “I don’t want to learn to ride a two-wheeler. Why do I have to?”

I gave the only reason that seemed to explain it: “Because you have to.”

A stellar parenting moment.

Really, though, up there with swimming and blowing your nose, it’s just one of those things you have to learn how to do. You just do. Mother Nature, though, dropped the ball in that humans don’t come out of the womb knowing the nose-blowing thing. Anyone out there who has tried to teach an extremely congested toddler to blow their nose will understand what I’m taking about. It should be up there with learning to breathe. But biking riding, without those noisy, wobbly little training wheels, is up there on the list, too.  A life skill. You HAVE to know how to do it.

I got into cheerleader mode and let her know that this will be the summer that she learns! Let’s set a goal to be riding by the time school starts!

So….the summer was soon going by and, in my head, I was getting nervous. We were running out of time. What if we don’t make my self-imposed timeline, I mean, deadline? By next summer, she’d be on the old-end of learners and what if teasing commenced? I had to get my parental butt in gear and get that child on a bike, pronto!

Problem solved.

The kid learned in two days flat.

First day had me running behind her on the bike and, surprisingly, not really holding on, but creating that infamous illusion of doing so. Then, I’d lift my hands away totally and not tell her….holy cow! This was going great!

Second day….child gets on bike, says “Mom, I want to try this”….and just bikes away.

And there she goes.

Now she will have this memory the way that I have mine. I can still see how the sidewalk looked beneath my peddling feet (dread occurring with each pass of a “crack”). I know my hair was in a long ponytail and I was completely in love with my sparkly, red banana-seated bike. And I do believe there were plastic tassels hanging from the handlebars.

It might not have been July 4th when one of my girls went off to camp and the other peddled those legs, but those were their own little Declarations of Independence.

And like Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and the others, I was happy to be witness and watch them sign, knowing full well that both they and I will remember those moments for the rest of our histories.


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