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Five Years to Miss You

Dear Sebastian,

It’s now five years since your birth day; five years and about thirty-seven hours since your heart beat last.

There is something about this year that has made my baby memories extra-vivid. I have thought of you so much this spring. I feel your days coming the first time the weather gets hot. Despite seemingly constant over-busy-ness in the last two months, you’ve been right at the top of my heart most of the time. It has felt strange, being in our new house where you never lived… but I feel you anyway.

I thought about you especially on your big brother’s seventh birthday. I could viscerally remember bringing E home as a newborn: the sunshine, the tiny onesies, the smell of welcome-home fruit crumble, the swaddling blankets, the days of rapt, awestruck bliss.

I remember how I felt that week when Emi told me that a friend of hers had borne a son on the same day I had, but that hers had been stillborn. My heart dropped like a rock as I tried to fathom how any parent could withstand that pain, when I could barely let my own newborn out of my arms.

Then, two years and one month later, you were born still, and I became friends with that same bereaved mama, who offered beautiful, generous words of empathy that I’ve never forgotten. By that time, she had a second daughter, who is now five – like you. What a strange, sad, lovely, mysterious entwining of lives and deaths.

Normally, school ends and there is that sudden space in my life at the beginning of July – and I let myself ponder you as much as I want. This year, I haven’t had time to spend with you, but my systems knew what they were doing and went all weepy anyway. I didn’t know what to do with that, because five is a heavy milestone, and it was getting lost in the preparation for Family Camp.

Then yesterday, I arrived here at NeeKauNis, and I suddenly felt lighter, righter, like you were all around me. It was quiet and fragrant and humid and leafy. I saw you, in this bright face.

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And I saw you again in this expansive sky-smile, after a much-needed, stormy downpour.

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Today, the other families arrived, and our Camp is full. It is busy and noisy and full of life.

This week, I’m going to watch for you. Beauty has always been where I see you, and interacting with beauty is how I feel close to you.

I really wish there were some way I could cuddle you again. Part of me feels entitled to, after missing you for so long. But I’m glad you’re here with us.

I love you always.

***


 

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The village that raises my children

sunset at neekaunis - photo by ravipjoshi

Family Camp 2013 at Camp NeeKauNis:

 

Where there was ALWAYS sand in my bed.

Where we scored the luxury of a cabin with a bathroom (thanks for being a baby, Baby AB!).

Where Sean was able to be with us for four happy days.

Where we ate three home-cooked meals a day – none of which was prepared by me!

Where I noticed that after all those years as a cook, followed by a few as a camper, my urge to use the staff side of the kitchen is finally waning.

Where almost all the days were bright sunshiny blue-and-green, perfect Camp weather.

Where I often didn’t know the location of my four-year-old son, and that was FINE. (He would be playing in the sandbox or at the “park”, making forts in the Meeting Centre, colouring in Nelson-Hall, doing crafts at kids’ program – usually with a whole troupe of other kids.) Sometimes, he even ate at tables with neither parent present. Plus: first bunk bed experience. TOP BUNK, BABY.

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That stroller covered a lot of ground in a week.

Where we warned E that there would be no iPad/screen time of any kind at Camp – and he never even asked for it. Not once.

Where being outside, usually in the dappled shade (my favourite kind), was, as always, the default. Fresh air all the time. It does a body good.

Where I realized that I like yoga after all – with the right teacher.

Where the conversation is reliably satisfying.

Where it’s a good idea to contrive to synchronize the kids’ bedtime with that period of evening where the mosquitoes are most relentless.

Where I got to be ukulele coach (!) and strum along with the sweetest musical family (not my own) to present “Blowin’ in the Wind” for Talent Night.

Where Baby AB charmed the sandals off most of the Camp community, with no apparent effort on her part.

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Buffet lunch outside – Baby AB approves.

Where young girls (and some older ones, and some boys too) made it their goal to entertain her.

Where I could give her to almost anyone, and they would treat each other like family. (Amazing, the number of things I was able to do kid-free.)

Where I could mention Sebastian, especially to those who were there two years ago, and not feel that I’m being offensively sad. Because the empathy is unconditional.

Where it dawned on me that Family Camp is the place I feel most safe, for myself and for my family.

Let me expand on that.

It’s partly the way the kids stick together, and the older ones take really good care of the younger ones. There are amazing role models all over the place. There are no roads and no strangers at Camp, and the beach is separate. I never worried about E.

It’s partly the fact that we are all there for the same reason: to be together. Even if we don’t know each other when we arrive, we consciously form a community. One of the moms, when Camp ended, posted this article about community-style parenting; it made me so grateful that we have a place where, once a year, our family can experience that.

And I’ve realized that the reason this works is trust. Magically, this is a zone of unpretentious, non-judgmental parenting. We all know we are just people who love our kids (and each other’s kids) and are doing our best. If my child is having a meltdown, everybody gets it. If my child is being adorable, we all get that too. All of our kids are awesome, as well as being occasional (or frequent, depending on the day) pains in the derrière. I admire and learn from the parenting I see, knowing it’s impossible for any family to sail smoothly all the time. I don’t feel judged by the other moms (and rare dads), even when I’m judging myself – like when my kid eats nothing but bread for dinner (MOTL).

My hope is that our kids are inheriting this attitude of acceptance, which will set the tone for Junior Camp and Intermediate Camp when they’re bigger, and that Camp becomes the place where they learn to be their best, realest selves. That’s what it has always been for me.

What a wonderful week. (I miss you all, Family Campers!)

***


 

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Eight Random Things with Dazzling Segues

Yep, it’s after ten on a Wednesday night and I’m gonna DAZZLE y’all. With some random things connected by pure awesomeness. After all, my claim of brilliant segues last time was… oh wait. They were fair-to-middling.

Anyway.

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This photo doesn’t do justice to the gorgeous black-purple of the ripe ones.

1. It’s black raspberry season. BEST THING EVER. As kids, we used to scale the cliffs near our house and slither right into the brambles to get these, and they were worth every scratch. Now I know about Marcy’s Berry Farm where you can get them without quite so much peril – but still lots of wholesome dopamine hits when you find fat, juicy berries in luscious clumps. There’s a black raspberry cobbler in the oven right now. Aw yeah.

2. Speaking of local stuff that’s in season, SWEET CORN! Okay, I guess there are two best things ever. Even my picky son was exclaiming about the deliciousness of the corn we munched on tonight.

3. Speaking of my quirky firstborn, I love him heaps and piles forever, but he’s a strange guy. As some of you know (or have witnessed), he has loved arms for a long while. Yes, the limbs, not the weapons. Especially mine. He likes to give lavish kisses to the inside of the slightly-bent elbow. Recently he has discovered he can cut out the middleman (or woman) and kiss his OWN arm. It’s kind of sweet that he expresses such affection toward himself, but the kissing gets on my nerves because it’s, like, really loud and smoochy and frequent. In the car, at the dinner table. In bed while he’s going to sleep. But what kind of mother would I be if I told him to cut out that self-kissing, it’s annoying? After all, I kiss my kids’ kissy cheeks every chance I get. What a terrible example I’m setting.

4. Speaking of self-love, I finally watched Dr. Brené Brown’s viral Ted Talk about her research on shame/vulnerability. Gah, she’s so amazing. (Plus I love to listen to her because she’s from Texas. She sounds like my family.) Now I can hardly wait to read her book, Daring Greatly.

5. Speaking of books on the must-read list, I also must read the new book Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, Ja.K.a. Rowling! What! So exciting!! I hope it’s not scary because then I would still have to read it but I would be scared. And I feel a little bad for Jo, because it was apparently very freeing for her to write under an unknown pseudonym for a while, but as Sean pointed out, she has all those billions of dollars to make her feel better. And as Jon Stewart would say, “Oh, billions of dollars. Is there any problem you can’t solve?”

6. Speaking of things I know of thanks to my internet connection, I will be unplugging as of this Friday, July 19th, through Saturday, July 27th, to attend Family Camp. Looking forward to seeing wonderful people, watching my kids play with lots of other kids, eating food cooked by someone else, splashing in Lake Huron, listening to breezes in birch leaves. I will not be blogging, nor attempting to blog, although I am going to try to have a few short-and-sweet posts ready for auto-publishing through the week, just for fun. (And I will not apologize if I happen to write some things that later become blog posts.)

7. Speaking of unplugging, I’ve been reading some cool blog posts about the subject of screen-free time for kids, and I’m mulling over the limits that need to be placed on screen time in our house. Not just for E, but for me too. I get irritated with myself always checking things. Blog post is brewing on this. (Irony is also brewing.)

6. Speaking of brewing, that rhymes with stewing, and it is hot as blazing chili out this week. Even my morning glories that seed themselves rampantly every summer are looking droopy. (I don’t water them. They’ll manage. Next thing you know there will probably be flooding. Oh, hello Climate Change, do they still think you’re a made-up fad? You go prove ’em wrong, slugger!)

7. Speaking of things sprouting and the heat being on, Queen Elizabeth and I are basically the same person, because here we are, both wondering Where’s that royal baby? Please arrive before I go offline! But then, I’m also practically Kate Middleton because I know about late babies. I know what it’s like to be so overdue that people give up and stop asking. So hang in there, Kate, your baby’s gonna be awesome.

8. Speaking of my undeniable resemblance to royalty, I had a brush with my own fame the other day. I was at the splash pad chatting with my blog-friend mama lola and some of her other friends – and one of them heard mention of the “teacher post” and was like, “You’re Dilovely! That post was awesome! It was everywhere!” You guys, it was SO. EXCITING. I’m sure it’s really bad form to talk about this to my actual readers on my actual blog, but whatever. I’m still all thrilled and blushing about it. (And joking, since I’m still pretty sure Kate is a little more famous than me.)

So… à bientôt, lovely Di-hards.

***


 

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