making memories

On vacation with the kids in Florida this week, and relearning the motherhood lesson that while Making Memories must be the priority of spending time away with one’s children, what those Memories consist of for my children may not be what I set out to create.

The Space Shuttle mission STS-119 took off 4 days, 16 hours, and 40 minutes ago, as of this writing, and I was thrilled to tears to be on the beach in Cocoa Beach, about 15 miles away, to see (and hear) the grandeur of a space shuttle launch, perhaps one of the last in history, since the space shuttle program is due to be phased out over the next few years. I haven’t uploaded my photos yet, I’m lame that way, but it was a Bucket List experience, I assure you. Both of my boys love space, and I’d been talking it up to them all day. “You’ll tell your grandchildren about this!” I exhorted. “We are going to see the REAL space shuttle going up to SPACE with REAL ASTRONAUTS INSIDE!”

And yet, as we stood on the beach, with hundreds of others, watching the smoke trails reflect orange and pink in the sunset, watching what I was told was the clearest view on the clearest night that anyone on the beach could remember, my two boys were much more interested in rolling around in the sand. “Boys! Watch!! The rocket boosters are separating!!” I yelled, and they looked for a moment at the tiny balls of flame falling to the ocean, and then get distracted once more by their sand-throwing games. Maddie, in the sling, at least pointed to the sky a few times. “Yes, honey,” I said, glad to have a captive audience. “That’s the space shuttle, you’re never going to forget this.” Not.

The next day, I was at the beach with Fergus. “Want to dig a hole, Mommy?!” he said. Trying to match his enthusiasm, I dug with him, using our hands since I hadn’t thought to bring a shovel. “What’s this hole for, honey?” I finally asked, once it was big enough for him to stand in up to his waist. “All the ocean water is going to go in dis hole!” he declared. Then we sat together and waited for the waves to overtake the hole.

After a while, it started to dawn on me that the waves seemed to be getting farther away rather than closer. So I checked the tide schedule on the lifeguard’s chair, only to find that, indeed, the next time that the waves would fill our hole was about 18 hours away.

I broke the news to Fergus gently, expecting a meltdown. Instead, he jumped up, grabbed a few handfuls of dried up seaweed, and threw them in the hole. “Now we buwy dis tweasure!” he declared. “And den, somebody else will FIND de tweasure!” And we put all the sand back in the hole we had just dug, negating, at least in my mind, the entire point of the last half hour.

But that wasn’t how he saw it. Digging a hole, and then filling it back up, was his idea of a perfect afternoon. And if his trip to see the space shuttle launch was more memorable, in his eyes, for the two Shirley Temples he had at the restaurant beforehand, then so be it. I had set out to make memories with him, and while they weren’t what I expected, they were wonderful, just the same.