Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moon over Carolina

Busy, busy, busy.
I know some people think I've got it pretty good, considering the fact that we get to spend part of our time enjoying our big old house and friends and neighbors in my hometown, then turn around and share the lives of our youngest grandsons while cooling our heels in a shabby-chic beach place on the North Carolina coast.
Well, they're right.
But things do get a trifle hectic from time to time, even in the most perfect of places. The little boys are moving into the kind of full-time activities that will keep them, their parents and us, even, fully engaged for the next decade or two. Like school, soccer, t-ball and other must-do stuff that we absolutely love to be a part of.
But we knew, too, that it was time to think about heading back to the midwest for awhile. So, with school in its last week, soccer over for the season, and t-ball winding down before the hot, hot inland Carolina days make it tough to do much more than sweat and talk about the weather, we decided to pack up and head out.
First, though, we got to enjoy a couple more weeks of prime beach weather, with much-anticipated visits from some midwest friends and a favorite aunt from Florida. The sea turtles are finally on the move, with my dedicated spouse arising early each day to walk the beach and search for signs of nesting.
But really, it's time to go.
There's a special language spoken by spouses of the female persuasion and understood only by husbands with enough experience and good sense to absorb the full import of simple statements with complex meanings.
I call it wifelish. And after nearly 40 years of wedded bliss, I know that language very well. Or pretty well, at least.
I was on the receiving end of one of those special utterances as we entered our last weekend on the beach, a period of time I thought we'd spend packing and preparing for an early morning departure on Tuesday, along with spending a little more beach time with the kids.
That's when I heard it.
"I wish we could set up the tent and camp with the boys before we go."
Simple enough. A little wistful, even. But for an experienced spouse like me, the meaning was clear:
Do it.
The tent in question was not the easy-to-erect little red unit we take with us whenever we travel. Rather, it was the new "family" size tent we bought in hopes that we'd be able to share our love for sleeping under the stars with young Cyrus and John Patrick. It is not, of course, one of those pricey, new-fangled "instant" tents that obligingly sproings into shape as soon as you pull it from the box. Instead, it required degrees in architecture (for the nonintuitive assembly steps) and Mandarin (for the near-incomprehensible instructions), with the process only slightly less taxing and time-consuming than erecting a yurt (go ahead, look it up) or building a treehouse in a tall, tall tree.
Once up, though, it was easily big enough for four and more, with room enough to stand up. This is real luxury compared to the little red tent, which only allows enough headroom for crawling in and out, and is, on rainy nights when it is fully zipped up and battened down, not unlike being buried alive in a flapping vinyl coffin. So we tried it out in the back yard, next to the intracoastal inlet that borders our property. The night was alive with the sounds of wildlife--including the birds and other critters in the nearby marsh, and the young Marines making merry just three houses down.  Both produced an interesting variety of squawks, splashes and ominous thumps that kept me wondering if I needed to worry about a nocturnal visit from an anxious egret or an over-served gyrene. But we sorta got used to it, and fatigue eventually got the better of noise and excitement.
We slept.
All of us.
Or, at least, all of them.
Cyrus, who is just six, is a restless sleeper, who tosses, turns, rolls out of bed and often snores like a sailor on the wrong side of a generous helping of grog.  Soon, he was adding his own resonating rattle to the nighttime cacophony, startling both a nesting osprey and a lance corporal from Cleveland.
But the human brain is a remarkably adaptable organ, and I finally dropped off for a couple of hours, only to be awakened again by the unmistakeable sounds of a four-year-old boy deciding not to digest the four cookies, bag of popcorn, peanut butter sandwich, ice cream and orange soda he had ingested a few hours before.
Happily, grandma took charge of cleaning up the boy and his area, and he was soon ready for another spot of roughing it, though he did have a request before he closed his eyes.
He: Grandpa, can I borrow your flashlight?
Me: Sure, John. Whatcha looking for?
He: I just wanted to make sure grandma got it all.
They had both drifted back to sleep when I opened my tired eyes once more to the dazzling sight of a full moon rising high in the sky over the waterway. Bright moonbeams illuminated our campsite, the interior of the tent and the young campers who rested there.
She was right. We had one more thing we needed to do. And I was was glad we did it.
Now we can go home.
But we'll be back.

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