Thursday, September 9, 2010

Make Do

We do not live near any ocean - not the Pacific, not the Atlantic, and really not the Indian. We are land locked in North America.

I was nine years old the first time I saw an ocean . . . and a beach - oh the waves, and the rocks, and the shells, and the sand of it all. Sand under my naked toes, sand wet and sand dry, sand castles (or lumps), sand holes that fill with water from below, and sand in all the crevices beneath by bathing suit when we got back to the motel.

Our trip to the ocean was really a trip to Disneyland. The beach was an afterthought to Mickey, but it may have been the more formative experience for me.

Our family was without great means when I was a child. I didn't notice much, but I'm guessing if I were to see the household income verses expenses from that period of my life it might all work out to a bottom line of "approximately destitute." Like, meat was the venison my Dad brought home from a hunt, and spending cash for my sister and I were the few dollars we brought home from peddling home made cookies through the streets in our rusted wagon.

I loved my childhood. I never felt poor. Not even when Grah and I combed through the rubbish bin looking for interesting things to play with - empty bottles of any sort, that was our real bounty - we had an apothecary of plastic shampoo bottles that kept us entertained for . . .well, our childhood.

So my Mom coming up with the money to get our family of five to Disneyland was no ordinary feat. I'm guessing she didn't do anything illegal to get the cash - she's just not like that.

I'm guessing she sacrificed a few of her own necessities - she's just like that.

When the money was ready she loaded us all in the Dreaded Dormammu - our red and silver Volkswagen Bus - and we left Cedar City for the very foreign experience of California. We got as far as a few miles past Mesquite before the Dreaded Dormammu made some dreaded sounds and puttered to a stop on the side of the desert highway.

My Dad declared the trip a resounding failure and we would have to make our way home some how.

My Mom used words she doesn't normally use and declared the trip in full swing and it was up to him to find a solution.

She won.

The story is; Dad starts walking back to Mesquite, nice couple in a Mercedes stop to pick up the Damsel in distress along with her three children. Nice couple turns around to fetch Dad. Uncle in Mesquite takes care of the Dreaded Dormammu. Nice couple picks up their second Mercedes in Glendale that they let my Dad drive. We caravan to Vegas where my grandparents lend us their car and we drive to Anaheim the next day.

Thank you nice couple with two Mercedes who let strangers drive your cars.

My nine year old heart might have broken into sad little pieces had we not made it to California. It was my life's adventure at that age.
I ached to see Disneyland.
I ached to see Los Angeles.
I ached to see the beach.

So now, when Jonah tells me he "really, really, really" wants to see the ocean, I know how he feels. He is seven. Time is ticking away for our inland selves, and he grows impatient. Mountains and canyons are nothing to scoff at. We have some of the most stunning the world has to offer, but the unknown is hopelessly beguiling.

We have tried to plan California, but babies, graduate school, and money seem bent on keeping those 682 miles as distant as say, the Arctic.

On a whim, Matt decided to offer the children the nearest beach available to us on Monday.

It is a beach not without some faults, namely that it is the shore of the Great Salt Lake - which is not as much great as it is foul smelling. But there is water and there is sand, and if you live landlocked it is actually more fun than I imagined it would be.

So until I do as my mother did when I was nine, and figure out what I can give up for long enough to pay for the trip to California, we can make do with the remains of what Jonah calls "the Ancient Lake Bonneville."

Friday, September 3, 2010

Keeping Up With the Artists

We have two paint shirts, cut from the many white shirts that go "the way of all the earth" after Matt has worn them once or twice a week for two years. These shirts are marked with a history of little people's efforts at creating - it is the art of childhood smeared all up and down the front, or in some cases painted directly on to the shirt as the paper eventually becomes a bit boring. We need a new canvas, they decide, discovering fabric works nicely.

We have two paint shirts but three painters now. The littlest painter came to the table a few days ago after Jonah and Caroline abandoned their post. This abandonment is so strictly against the painting rules I can hardly contain my (anger - which I'm working on) response. They left all their wares and tools scattered across the marginally protected tabletop - far too inviting a scene for a momentarily unsupervised two-year-old.

I found her thus:

Paints are a heady temptation. I experience this temptation regularly, accompanied by the gloomy realization that I have no skills once the paints have been squeezed seductively from the tube. A brush in my hand has such a tentative meeting with canvas - beyond "hello" it really has no conversation. I like to watch my kids paint because their brush and canvas converse fluently.

Cecily is obviously no exception.

And she has christened her own paint shirt.

When Matt's currently white shirts are discarded to make way for a new batch of new white, I will snag two more for the little painters.

Perhaps I should keep one for myself and call it my painting smock. Perhaps it will sufficiently clothe my artistic apprehension such that I can smear paint on paper without fear.

Be warned - a little paint tray, left unattended, sporting an array of colors such as this might tempt your little ones, or even yourself beyond forbearance.

Two suggestions:

1. If you buy paints you must emotionally disconnect yourself from your children's clothes.

2. Buy a piece of duck cloth or canvas that can be easily unrolled to cover the table generously - it alleviates anxiety.