Here we are, celebrating your ninth trip around the sun, in an age when we cannot have a birthday party because of a global pandemic. If you had said this to me the day you were born–that in your lifetime we would find ourselves locked in, shut down, physically distanced from one another…
Well, I couldn’t have imagined it then, and I can barely imagine it now. You woke up today, and we celebrated over breakfast and opened presents. Then you attended to your school work at the dining room table, because schools have been closed for two weeks and will remain shut until at least May 15.
Slowing down for a day of rest–and having the world catch up to you anyway.
This past Sunday was chilly but sunny; Friday and Saturday had been raw and damp, rainy days that befitted late January, even if the month had borne absurdly warm weather just weeks before. But there it was: sunshine and perfect blue skies.
Kel and I decided to spend the day at leisure. Friday, I’d driven to Raleigh for my interview with the doctoral program at N.C. State, which took place on Saturday. Afterward, I’d driven straight home, arriving just in time to fire up the grill and char steaks in honor of Kelly’s birthday. Julia and Thomas had spent the night at Carl and Dianne’s the night before. Annie, who had been suffering a bit of a head cold, stayed home with Kel. I’m not sure any member of our family felt well rested when they awoke Saturday morning.
So we decided to keep it simple Sunday morning, sleeping in, indulging in a full breakfast, sipping coffee afterward. Kel took up the duties of conveying a biblical lesson with the children–they really do have an advanced sense of guilt when it comes to missing church–and afterward we spent time reading while the kids played, and noon arrived without delay.
Another school year beckons. But first, the beach.
We are in search of dolphins, dozens of us on this small boat bobbing in the ocean. Our eyes are searching across the deep, the ripples and waves a sequined glittering array of light and shadow, all of us desperate to see a protruding fin or the spray from a blowhole.
Four summers here, our little vacation spot in Cherry Grove, and still each trip we find new things to do. This year, we booked a sunset cruise on one of the dozen or so boats we’d spotted tooling about in the ocean earlier in the week. The entire enterprise seemed to abide a classic fisherman’s sensibility, rough about the edges, rules entirely absent. Which is to say, one could smoke on board, which a handful of folks did, or bring a backpack full of snacks and a personal cooler, which we did. There were no regulations, no tucked-in shirts, no safety talks, nothing much beyond the growl of the diesel engines.
There was cadenced, wizened commentary from the captain, though, broadcast over tinny loudspeakers as we trolled the surf in search of dolphins and delivered in a Chesapeake accent. We sat on benches along the sides of the boat. Plastic lawn chairs were arranged in the open decks in the center.
It took an hour or so of motoring up the Intracoastal Waterway to reach the Atlantic. (“We call this the Ditch,” the captain noted in his well-rehearsed monologue.) Creeping along the no-wake zones, we spotted a few restaurants perched along the waterfront, rolling carpets of vibrant grass, and rows of multi-million dollar vacations homes, replete with LED-lit boat docks, palm-lined palisades, glimmering pools, and tiled roofs meant to invoke places more inspiring than Ditch-side mansions. Everyone crowded to one side of the boat to snap pictures of Vanna White’s house as we idled past.