We drive down the road on a sunny July afternoon, through the broad expanse of eastern North Carolina farmland on our way to the beach. This has been a yearly trek for most of our lives, from the time when we were children, to the years we carried our two sons when they were children, and now to have our first summer beach time with our eleven-week-old grandson. My husband, David plays a CD of Joni Mitchell songs, and the chorus plays for “The Circle Game” with the words, “we’re captive on the carousel of time.”
The tune was familiar to me but not the words– never one that followed her music. I listened closely.
We arrive to Emerald Isle and join our son, Brooks, his wife, Emily, and our grandson, Baker Hayes.
We miss our younger son, Ross who couldn’t get away this year. Many of our trips in the past were in August, after our sons finished internships or summer jobs and before I returned for the new year in my middle school. But since I’ve retired from that nursing position, I no longer feel that weighted dread of having to go back to the intensive wind-up for the fall semester.
Often our time at the beach reminded me of New Year’s, looking back since our last summer’s stay; all that had happened in our family’s life; all that had been accomplished and all that had not; looking ahead to what was possible before the next year’s beach trip.
This year there’s a shift as we give our son’s family the downstairs master bedroom so they can spread out with the baby. I’m anxious to hold my grandson, to see how he’s grown since our last visit several weeks ago. He holds his head with great muscle tone when I pick him up and feel the pounds he’s gained. How fast he’s changing! They had taken him to the beach before we arrived to put his feet in the salt water. He pulled them back, like the water was too cool and he wondered why his parents were subjecting him to that.
After he’s fed, I walk him about and jostle him up and down trying to ease him into sleep, which he fights, wanting not to miss anything, I suppose. I think of Joni Mitchell’s song, the “painted ponies going up and down” and imagine how he’ll love a carousel when he’s a little older– my active little grandson.
Maybe the outside air will help, I think, and walk him onto the back porch. Every summer this has been the place I sit to read and drink coffee, whether it’s my morning devotional, my beach novel, or my non-fiction workbook on finding my way in mid-life. Now with the next generation in my arms, it’s a place to distract him from his fretfulness, a new memory in this space.
I think of the dreams I’ve had sitting in the porch chairs and continued pondering as I walked along the shoreline. Some of them have been realized, others have not, and some are in process– like publishing my memoir. Some of them have changed as I’ve transitioned from mid-life to the beginning of my senior years. I remember the lyrics from the Circle Game song, “there’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams.”
The passing of time is apparent in every memory of summertime at the beach, of family trips to this house. I imagine our grandson over the years before us, how fast they’ll go and I’ll want to, “drag my feet to slow the circles down.”
For now, all I can do is be thankful and enjoy these moments, even when he is fussy and hard to settle, content in the intimacy of this family time. I’ll be present to the circle of life pulling us forward, giving into its pull instead of fighting it, like my grandson fights sleep.
How About You?
Where are the places you feel the passing of time?
How do you look on the dreams that have been realized and those that haven’t, the ones that have stayed the same and others that have changed?