Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's A Sure Sign That School's Starting...

when every other recycling bin holds a box for a laptop. Dell, HP, Toshiba, and Apple boxes sit on top of beer and Diet Coke cans and newspapers that line the Tuesday morning walking circuit for Bell and me.

And with the beginning of school comes the end of summer. We’re back from the beach - Isle of Palms, South Carolina, having waited until the last possible week to rent a house, in case David chose to go to summer school. It gives you something to look forward to, we say, and it’s cheaper then sometimes, the week before school starts.

After last year’s disastrous rental, with dangerously loose porch pickets and a fraternity house floor, where, in the words of my sister-in-law, Kathy, “The three second rule did not apply,” I was determined to upgrade. And so we did - to a rather grand, for us, six bedroom affair with an impressive collection of TV sets and dvd players, cable – stuff you really don’t need at the beach, but the all important view of the Atlantic.

It was a far cry from the 70’s houses we used to rent, with no air conditioning, no telephone, no television, no washer and dryer or dishwasher, sometimes a few rows back from ocean front, where the only breezes came from the box fans we squeezed in the car.

But nothing is too good for the newest addition to our beach crew, Lauren Elizabeth, now nearly two months old, who probably wouldn’t have minded one of those 70’s houses. She looks like her brothers, only softer. “I want her to learn to put herself to sleep,” her mother says, “please try not to let her go to sleep in your lap.” - pretty stiff demands for a granny who’s finally got a chance to hold a baby girl after a host of boy children. I tried my best. “It’s OK, my mom does it too,” says Lauren’s mama, by way of forgiveness.

The weather was good – not as suffocatingly hot as you might expect for mid-August. A couple of rainy mornings came and we were off to the Fire Museum in North Charleston – a good place for our two preschoolers to get their fill of fire trucks, then to the Children’s Museum downtown, near the Visitors’ Center, where I think, at least a million children had chosen to spend their last day of freedom before school starts.

Three-year-old Elliot decided this was his year to ride in the boat and go fishing. He caught the most – five baby sharks, but got away from his quarry as fast as he could once they got reeled in.

Hank and I will have been married forty years this weekend - if you see him, suggest something sparkly. David surprised us with a digital copy he’d made of the tapes we sent back and forth when Hank was in Vietnam in the very early 70’s, the first time we’d heard them in all that time. It is a great gift to be able to hear ourselves at the beginning, to hear our early plans, some that turned out and some that didn’t, to hear that some of the things we argue about and worry about haven’t changed much in forty years. We were more polite to each other then, and our voices were a little higher. I sounded a little more redneck, (though I may still sound redneck, it’s hard to shed Georgia cracker, I think).

We came home to a lush, green garden, some ripe tomatoes, four ichiban eggplants, and a brand new crop of weeds. We’ll take care of them, I expect, while we begin thinking about fall planting, and also - next summer’s beach trip.