T is still unexpectedly napping in the car and I’m sitting a few feet away in the dappled shade under our camphor tree, having one of those quiet moments that seem deliciously stolen out from under the day. I suppose I should wake him but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
I’m thinking about an afternoon few days ago, when Tariku made friends with a group of older boys at the beach and told Scott to vamoose, saying, “You can stand over there near my mom.” This was a first. T is not a kid who likes to be without one of us for even five minutes. He insures that we’ll be glued to his side by doing things like “cleaning up” by dumping a glass of water into the DVR player while I’m making dinner. So it seems like a huge step that he wanted to fly solo with his new friends.
Of course, we were by the water so we were only about ten feet away, but it was still kind of amazing to watch the boys show him how to dig for sand crabs. You should have seen his delight when they dumped a few of the hapless creatures into his outstretched hands. I didn’t even know we had sand crabs in Malibu. I’ve only ever seen them at the Jersey Shore, where I summered as a kid.
What struck me was that many of my dearest memories of growing up don’t involve my parents. All of my most secret and treasured discoveries happened by myself or with friends. What I most remember about the shore was being part of a wild wolf pack of kids, running over the burning hot sand, holding crumpled dollar bills for Creamsicles from the ice cream truck. I remember the orange-stained tongues, the sand-scrubbed sunburns from burying each other up to our necks. I remember I first held a boy’s hand at the amusement park there. I know that my parents were nearby, because I was nine, but I have no memory of that. Just the whirling lights, the smell of the sea air, the tentative press of palm to palm.
I wonder what T will remember. I spend my days so obsessed with his every move that I often forget- if he somehow remarkably remembers those sand crabs, I won’t be in the picture at all. I find it liberating to think that his interior world is entirely his own. One day he’ll discover a band that blows his mind. One day someone will break his heart. These will be the moments that grow to define him, and in his memories of them, his mom will be rightfully absent.
I try to remember that I’m just here to love him like crazy and figure out how to stand far enough away to pretend I’m invisible, but close enough to protect him when the water gets too rough.