When we were little, my dad worked out of state off and on, for our uncles in California. It was the early 80’s and the economy wasn’t strong, so he would go so that he could provide for us. It was hard and we all missed him and he, us. But, he did what he had to for his family. This left the bulk of child rearing in those years on my moms shoulders, but she had a strong support system with her family and my dads here in Benzie.
On particularly hard days during summer vacation, she would reach her limit (“I’ve had it up to here (gesturing to her forehead) and there’s no more room!”) so she would pack us up and we’d ask “where are we going?” And she’d reply “Crazy!” And we would go to Beulah Beach. So we always thought Beulah Beach was actually named “Crazy”. This meant we would get very excited and do everything little girls can do to get our mom to go to “Crazy”. I excelled in this. Just ask her.
One day we went with my Uncle Paul, to Crazy and I made a new friend. We played on the teeter totter together and while I was up in the air, she got off. I slammed down hard and got the wind knocked right out of me. I remember being very disoriented and scared and unable to breathe. After some encouragement, I began playing again and went to the slide, not wanting to teeter totter again. When I got to the top, I lost my bearings while reaching for the sky in fierce exclamation that I was on top of the world. I fell off, all the way down to the bottom, hitting every rung of the ladder and again, the wind left my little solar plexus. I thought I was dead. My uncle did too. My mouth was packed with blood and sand and I couldnt cry. It was scary and I was so sick of going Crazy…
Nowadays, people often say to me “I cannot even imagine what it must feel like to lose a child”. I have thought long and hard about how to explain how it feels, in words and images that one might possibly relate to.
That day on the beach is the closest approximation I can come up with. The effortless freedom and excitement, followed by getting the wind knocked out of my sails– the hope that if I try a new way to stand tall and closer to the sun I will be ok, followed by the plummet to the ground again. The fatigue of going crazy.
But then, as now, I kept going. That day I’m sure I tried something else, maybe the water, water always changes the mood of children.
“If they’re crabby, put them in water”–SARK, from “how to really love a child”
Some days I am on top of the slide, trusting my own feet, and I fall. Otherdays I am teetering on trust of others, and they leap and I, unable to see it coming, fall to the ground and lose my way. Somedays I build sand castles and the water washes them away.
But I keep playing, keep swimming, I keep reaching. I am not giving up on the playground of life, even when it is crazy, even when it feels wiser to hold myself back.
Can’t you imagine?