Chasing Waves

IMG_4696It is a dangerous business, as a parent, to try to recreate perfection.  Invariably it leads to disappointment, because any moment is really the sum of its parts: how well everyone slept (or didn’t), how hungry they are, how much they really just wanted to stay home and chill quietly with that new book, who has a tummy trouble or a hangnail…I mean, these are little things but when you travel as a pack — as families and friends so often do — you may be dealing with all, or nothing.  It’s a delicate balance.

I almost went back and deleted that word, perfection, because obviously nothing and no one is perfect, and I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m some perfection-chaser, doomed to unhappiness.  That’s not the case, as this blog in its entirety will surely attest (read: I am totally winging this whole adventure, for better or worse).  But some moments — or, if we’re really lucky, some days — come so damn close and one of the things I’m really making an effort to do is to celebrate those more.

It is a testament to the ethnic breakdown of the San Francisco Unified School District that the Lunar New Year is a city-wide holiday here, and schools are closed.  For those of us not celebrating a holiday, it’s one of those very random, well-I-guess-I’m not-going-to-work-today days, which can be stressful…or you can just embrace it.  This year, embracing it was widely helped by the fact that it was 75 degrees, so a bunch of moms I know texted up a storm and gathered a crew to hit the beach.

We don’t beach much here in San Francisco.  For one thing, the water is cold; for another, the surf is mighty and unpredictable; finally, it’s usually windy/foggy/wear your fleece weather.  But when the sun shines bright and you find a good spot on the Bay side of the Golden Gate, where the waves are milder…Heaven is a place called San Francisco, on days like that.

And the kids: you should have seen them.  Racing down the sand, plunging into the waves, flinging their salty hair, throwing mud clumps at each other’s backs…They were FREE!  Released into the elements, these city children, running and splashing and shoving gritty handfuls of Pirate’s Booty into their mouths in lieu of stopping for lunch.  (Meanwhile, on the beach: “Are the kids throwing sand?  Isn’t that one of those things we’re supposed to stop?”  “Hmm, I guess so.  I mean, it’s mud…so maybe not the same thing?” “I know, and they are having so much fun.”  “Yeah, let’s not say anything.  Let’s just let them be.” — Let them be kids, let them be dirty, let them be alive…THIS was the kind of day it was.)

I had expected to stay through lunch, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.  3pm came and went, 4pm beckoned…we cancelled the scheduled gymnastics, cancelled indoor swim lessons, discussed how we would order takeout for dinner and skip the grocery store.  One mom went for a run.  Packing up and trying to figure out sandy feet and car upholstery, my friend Lauren gave me a high five.  “We totally did this day,” she said, smiling broadly.

“We seized it!  It was amazing.  So amazing.” I grinned back.

Back at home I ran a warm bath and attempted to extract so much Pacific sand from between tiny toes, and deep in the crevices of tiny ears.  Everyone slept blissfully.

The next Monday was President’s Day and the forecast predicted more record-breaking February sun.  On Sunday we decided: we’ll run it back.  We widened the circle: friends of friends!  Preschool friends!  We strategized our picnic plans, more ambitious this time: quinoa salads, homemade caesar dressing, ham and cheese bread puddings, corn muffins and salumi and dry rose.   The kids could barely sleep they were so excited.

And you know what?  It was perfect.  Perfect Times Two.  There were younger children with us this time, so more vigilance was required at the water’s edge, more attention to sunscreen and the size of the breakers.  No matter.  Our blankets got damp and while the kids took turns burying each other in the sand the moms swapped recipes and passed wine and waters back and forth and proffered strawberries and bites of pizza to passing littles.


This morning I’m standing in my kitchen, typing away, strategizing dinner and grant proposals while the dishwasher runs in the background, thinking all I want to do is write this post: to shout from the rooftops how lucky I feel sometimes to have days like these, friends like these, kids like these, perfect, perfect memories like these.






Photos by myself and other mamas.


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