My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

The Number of Songs in the World

2006-05-15

This morning, on the way to work, I passed a church whose marquee read: “It’s hard to stumble when you’re on your knees” which actually is better advice for those in the “oldest profession” business than church goers, don’t you think? Christians and prostitutes have more in common than you may realize.

I learned a number of things while at the beach:

1. Red is clearly the reincarnation of an old Depression-era woman.
2. Dusty is a very different child than either of her parents were.
3. Red is terrified of the ocean.

This last discovery put a bit of a cramp in our collective styles. We had to adjust all our beach-going plans to take into account Red’s new fear. My husband and I had to take turns doing things with Dusty so that one of us could stay behind and watch Red destroy the house and eat everything in sight.

We arrived late Wednesday afternoon. The house has a sand dune for a backyard and a retaining wall underneath it. A wooden walkway leads from the house to steps that take you right to the beach. Dusty ran outside and straight down to the water - hello, old friend, I'm back!

Red, as soon as we stepped outside, began to fuss and wave her hands in an agitated way. The closer we got to the ocean, the more she protested.

Red has discovered fear. And the ocean is number one on her list.

She was okay, for the most part, playing in the sand right outside the back door as long as she didn’t catch a glimpse of the water. Maybe it was the uninterrupted view of the horizon, some kind of spontaneous agoraphobia, I don’t know. But, it meant we couldn’t all go out and sit on the beach together until she went down for a nap. And even then, it wasn't all of us.

As mentioned in #1 – Red spent her vacation eating. And I mean, every waking moment was spent with both hands and mouth full of food. It really didn’t matter what was in them because it was clear that she was revisiting a past life in which she was on the brink of starvation and had to hoard food for survival. Grapes, bananas, apple slices, bagels, cereal, slices of parmesan cheese, noodles, garden burgers, pizza, pizza, pizza, whatever she could get, she was eating it. Non-stop. The child is going to bankrupt me if she keeps up this pace. She spent the majority of her waking hours clinging in desperation to the refrigerator door handle - when her hands weren't filled with grapes or pieces of canteloupe.

Dusty, on the other hand, frolicked in the waves, helped build a sand castle, and made new friends. She really amazes me. There was a family (well, actually two staying in a monstrosity of a house next door) with small children and Dusty’s radar went off, “Kids! I want to play with them!” Go ahead, I told her, my shyness knob turning up to eleven. Come with me, she begged and dragged me over to meet the little children – a boy and a girl about 3 or 3.5 years old. There were two two-year-olds as well but I only ever saw one of them. Since Red refused to come out of the house, no one ever saw her either. We were unable to get a family beach photo like the ones we took last year because she refused to take more than six steps out the back door of the house. Sigh.

The kids played together for awhile and I chatted with the moms who I otherwise would never have spoken a word to. I mean, what in the hell do I have in common with people who can afford that place? It must have 10 bedrooms. Clearly, they were upper middle-class families completely out of my league. But, I put on my company face and made small talk (*shiver*) as best I could. One nice thing about having children, you always have something to talk about, you always have something in common with other parents.

The two children, Adam and Kelsey, came over briefly the next day and played in our sand mound which everyone cooed over. The other moms thought it was great (which it was) and admired our tiny little house and complained that the only access in their house to the second floor was by a spiral staircase which is a death trap when you have small children. I told them our little crow’s nest loft was accessible only by a spiral staircase as well. They admired our house a little too much so I may have to reserve it for next year really soon so they don’t snatch up our week.

Later, my husband and I – who are both unrepentant introverts – discussed Dusty’s amazing ability to seek out other, strange, children. She likes to play with any children, no matter how old they are. She has no fear of unknown children. She seeks them out, in fact. This is a foreign concept to me. My mother used to try to get me to play with the children of her friends and acquaintances and I didn’t even know them. Why did she think that just because we were about the same age we’d have anything in common? I had no idea how to approach a new kid, no idea what to say to them, really didn’t have any interest in other kids I didn’t know.

I was much more comfortable in the company of grown ups. They always knew what to say. They always started the conversation, asked me questions I could answer, included me in things, took me under their wings. Other kids always looked at me funny like they'd sized me up and didn't like what they saw. My husband was the same way. So, we are a bit puzzled (but relieved) that Dusty is so willing to approach other children without fear. It makes life a little easier and I think it’s a skill (if that’s the right word for it) that will hold her in good stead for her whole life. Maybe the difference is that she’s always been in daycare/preschool – she’s been socialized? She's had to learn to make friends since she was old enough to be able to. Maybe it’s just her personality? It always comes down to nature vs nurture in my head and I don’t know which side wins – maybe it’s a mix of both. I don’t know. Dusty is who she is regardless of her DNA, regardless of who her parents are (and aren’t).

I carved out a bit of time for myself as well. I got up at 6am every morning (which, if you know me, is saying something), made coffee, walked on the beach alone as the sun rose, and got some writing done.

Dusty and I took walks, gathered shells, watched lines of pelicans fly overhead, enjoyed seeing dolphins jumping and playing, watched as my husband – while digging a moat around the sand castle village – accidentally flung a fiddler crab out onto the beach and into the path of a hungry seagull. Nature at work.

Red did make progress with using a spoon and fork (for their intended purposes) at mealtime before reverting to the tried-and-true hand-to-mouth method she prefers. Hard to believe she’s almost two.

That's all I got time for today so I’ll wrap this up with a patented Dusty Quote:

She is amusing Red by singing songs to her and asks me,

“What other songs are there besides ‘Rock a Bye Baby’?”

How do I even answer that? Easy: I don’t.

“Oh yeah,” Dusty exclaims, not waiting for me, “There’s ‘Jingle Bells’!”

Which she proceeds to sing, much to Red’s delight.

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2:28 p.m. ::
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