I always think I have the best excuses for not doing something. Lately it’s been that I’m trying to heal, in every way, after growing a baby. I wasn’t ready to travel again. And what could be a more annoying statement than that? I hadn’t been sleeping much, I didn’t want to take the red-eye with the kids, my hormones were in ‘Rage Against the Machine’ mode and, as I told them, my family was already annoying me.
But of course I went. Because it was Scott’s birthday, because I love a good story and because of FOMO (most important of all).
Here’s the short version of what happened while we were there:
-Scott turned 33
-The kids were generally happy on the flights and boat crossings (shout-out to Caillou, Daniel Tiger and pacifiers)
-There was a Brad Pitt look-alike on the boat next to us
-Scott accidentally saw my mom naked and my dad accidentally saw me naked (we were on a boat. privacy is tricky).
-We all slept pretty well
-Sprout swam in the ocean!
-Skip learned to crawl!
-My mom is my best friend
-Scott slid down a 15 stair hand railing and launched off the kink at the end, spilling his drink all over the casino entrance at The Atlantis
-the boat broke, and then broke again, but is fixed now
Here’s the longer version…
Scott’s Birthday. Harbor Island, Eleuthera.
It’s too scary trying to write about Scott. I’ll never do him justice. But Scott says it’s good to say ‘yes’ to some scary things, so I’ll say this: He’s the nicest person I’ve ever known. He loves people and puts them first without having to think about it. He loves me in ‘Rage Against the Machine’ mode, and all the rest.
Easter. Surfing Eleuthera.
There is so much of me that is ‘mother’ now. That’s exactly what I want to be, but I also use it as an out sometimes too. A reason to stay in. Go to bed early. A reason to stand in front of the pantry and eat chocolate alone. I’m not just mother. There is a whole other part of me that lived here first. In water. In storms. On a boat with the ocean trying to take me back.
We’re out here. Scott, Dad and I, with three boards leaning on us. The kids are sleeping on the boat with my mom. It’s stormy over the water. The word tempest comes to mind. Our tiny inflatable dinghy skips along the surface like a thin stone. This isn’t my safe space. And that’s what I love about it. That’s why I need it.
I watch the coastline follow along nonchalantly beside us like a shadow and look all along it for a way to escape. A sandy beach, a ramp-like rock formation, a cove. My dad confesses he’s doing the same thing. Someone died in those cliffs a month before.
We’re out on a more welcoming day though, and after an hour of bobbing over windswell and the reverberations off the cliffs, we make it to the surf break. Dad and I jump in first. He is the reason I’m a surfer and not because he pushed me into waves or bought me boards or drove me to the beach, but because he’s the most adventurous person I know and I’ve always wanted to be like him. Scott jumps in and caches some waves too, then we all climb back in the dinghy and drive an hour back through a storm cloud with rain in our eyes, so full of everything else.
My friends text and ask how the trip is going. I say, “I’m drunk and the kids are sleeping. It’s kind of been exactly what I needed.” I know they understand.
The First Tuesday of April. Nassau.
We anchor the boat on water that looks like one of those “ocean in a bottle” science experiments you do as a kid with food coloring and oil. It looks almost drinkable and contains every shade of blue.
I dare my dad to dive down to the bottom and bring back sand. Your role as a daughter evolves over the years. I know this much now after being one and having two. I speak to him by encouraging him to do the things he’s always had fun doing: pushing his own limits. That’s what I love doing too. He comes back up with sand, but also a bloody nose. Oh no. I knew it. That’s what children do–slowly take the life out of their parents. But really, now that I am a parent, I can understand that maybe that’s what’s supposed to happen. I get it.
I swim down to the bottom on my own. My legs feel strong here. My heart doesn’t seem so breakable. I’m all the way on the bottom looking up at the surface and I’m so calm. I forgot I knew how to be this way.
I bring Sprout back a piece of coral from the bottom so she knows I was thinking of her while I was gone.
Wednesday the 4th. Chub Cay.
My mom and I swim off the back of the boat today. The day before, I talked her into jumping off the back of it when the ocean was in river mode. She compared it to the time I “forced” her to ride Tower of Terror at Disneyland. She has a much different relationship with the ocean than I do. She is still figuring out how to snorkel. She swims more like a turtle.
When we went to the airport before the trip, the two of us and the kids, we dropped my car off at a parking garage. In the commotion of loading babies and carseats into the shuttle, I forgot to lock it. As the garage shrunk into the distance, my mom said, “Well, worst case: your car will be stolen when you get back.”
She is the main reason I wanted to be a mom. She is exactly what I think a best friend is.
The Berry Islands.
I‘ve had my eyes set on a tiny offshore island for two days. I want to stand up paddle around it even though everyone tells me it is way farther than I think. It is.
I know I could paddle within range of it and still say I paddled there, but that isn’t the story I want. I’m going all the way up to it so I can see the surface.
The rocks are craggy and hostile looking. They give the appearance that they could rip clothes off, probably limbs, but the island seems to pull me into its orbit anyway. I suddenly feel the urge to confess my sins to it. Catholic tendencies die hard.
“I release my guilt! …about being a bad friend sometimes. ….I release my guilt about being a bad wife sometimes…I release my guilt about being a bad sister and mom sometimes! I release myself from the weight of my childhood and the stories other people have tried to tell me about myself!” I tell all of this to the island and then I dive down into the water like I’m baptizing myself in a scene straight out of a made-for-TV movie. As I paddle back to shore I shout, “Thank you!” to that pile of rocks for being my witness.
After another 15 minutes of paddling, I can finally see my family on the land again. Sprout’s small, busy body looks like a chicken running on the sand. I can barely make out the dot that is Isla in my dad’s arms. I can see how small they are in the world, even though they are enormous in mine. I’m back in their orbit now.