Posts Tagged ‘Cape Cod’

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Bea handed me a small and intricately wrapped box on December 26th.  It was our Christmas celebration, since she was in LA for the 25th and didn’t fly east to be with us until the next day.  We had a big family meal with some cousins planned at our favorite Long Island restaurant for the 27th and a bacon-wrapped turkey dinner in the wings for the 29th.  Everyone wanted to to see her, to spend time with her, to take pictures with her and give her some presents.  But when she first arrived at my sister’s house, where the twins and I were spending the whole long Christmas break, it was just the five of us.  My sister.  The twins.  Bea.  Me. 

I gave her the presents I had managed to buy for her with my meager earnings.  The twins and my sister Gloria gave her their gifts.  There was a fire in the fireplace, laughter in the house, a happiness that had been absent from the family holiday celebrations Bea had missed.  She gave me a photo album, unwrapped with just a red shoelace holding it closed,  that made me cry.  It was filled with pictures of the two of us together on one side of each page and a brief description on the other side.  It was beautifully, painstakingly decorated with shells and stickers, beads and images that meant something to both of us.  The first picture was of me in a softball uniform with Bea, 2 years old, sitting on my lap.  We’re at a cafe after a game.  She’s smiling impishly and drawing with a broken blue crayon.  “My Favorite Picture of Us,” it says in magic marker on the facing page.  The words are surrounded by stick-on, 3-D butterflies.

There’s a photo of us in Aunt Gloria’s pool.  There’s one of us on a kiddie roller coaster and two of us together at the Early Show, from when she used to come with me to work.  There’s one of the two of us at Legends Field in Tampa.  She’s maybe seven weeks old.  Her first of many Yankee games.  The second to last page is a list of “A Few Reasons Why I Love You.”  A few.  There are 21.  I counted.  And the last page has a pretty, multi-layered heart, the kind you might use on a homemade valentine, with love always written in script.  It’s signed, simply, bea bea.  Because that’s what I call her.

And then, almost as an afterthought, she handed me the little box.  I wiped away the tears the photo album visited upon me and bravely soldiered on.  A little box, that rattled curiously when I shook it.  The wrapping peeled away easily and found its way to the fire.  “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor,” she had written on the lid.  And, “Be strong, mom.  I’m proud of you.”  The lid slid right off.  Inside was a crystal clear memory of happier times.  Or were they happier?  It was when her other mother and I were pretending to get along.  It was when we both had jobs.  It was when we had a house that felt permanent, like a warm wool sweater that would last a lifetime.  I smiled at all the smooth, cool pieces of sea glass.  Bea had been collecting them for me.  The edges were softened, like the memories of our turbulent past, when half our lives seemed to be filled with arguments, disagreement, disappointments, when walks along the shoreline were my refuge from the craziness that had become my life.

Bea would come with me sometimes, hold my hand, watch the sand for a dull glint of green or white or, miracle of miracles, blue.  We’d go to Cape Cod every August, to Provincetown to spend a week with other same-sex couples and their kids.  Herring Cove was where we would gather almost every afternoon.  Once the twins were a part of the family we’d set up a tent for the babies and little kids, a place to keep them safe from the crispiness of the baking sun.  Soon, they were old enough to walk along the shoreline, too.  Every single piece of sea glass was cause for celebration.  Every tide pool along the way was a rest stop on the journey to find a tiny bit of quiet, a few moments of peace.  It was on these leisurely but adventurous strolls that I first began writing my memoir in my head, Bea perched upon my tanned shoulders, wearing a sunhat and a long-sleeved white shirt to cover her peachy skin.  She’d hold on for dear life as I carefully bent to reach for what might or might not be the highly coveted glow of old glass.  If we found a piece that was still jagged and clear we’d throw it back in, declaring it not quite ready for the collection.

Once, Bea and I decided that the coolest piece of sea glass we could possibly find would be an old marble that had somehow found its way into the waves.  So we bought a bagful and tossed them in, thinking, one day, maybe we’d discover them again, perfectly round and muted and smelling of the ocean.  We figured, even if we never did find one again, someone might, and that would be truly awesome for them.  It was our small contribution to future sea glass collectors everywhere.

The box trembled in my hand.  The good memories it brought back far outweighed the bad.  I could smell Cape Cod Bay.  I could feel the summer sun warming my tired bones.  The waves were licking the shoreline like a still-blind kitten finding and tasting its mother.  The kites were dancing happily, crazily in the on-shore breeze.  The girls, all three of them, were small enough for me to scoop up together in one giant, delicious group hug, golden sand falling from their hair and tiny feet.  I thanked my kid for knowing me, for understanding the sweetness of sentimentality and bringing back to me those warm and happy thoughts.

I’m planning to go back to Provincetown some summer, soon.  With all of my girls.  For lobster and clam chowder and sunburned friends and quiet days at the beach.  For finding crabs in tide pools and fishing and swimming and shopping on Commercial Street.  For dunes and bicycles and drag queens in comedy shows.  And maybe, for one perfectly round, weathered piece of sea glass.  A muted orb.  A circle.  Like life.

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