Sunday, July 5, 2009

Christmas in July

We're happily home from a big, busy Fourth of July weekend up north, where we went all the usual places and did all the usual things. There is something comforting about marking the years this way: taking pictures of the girls splashing ankle-deep in the freezing beach at Harbor Springs; watching the small-town parade along with thousands of other people decked out in red, white, and blue; eating Tom's Mom's cookies; having Sunday brunch at Bay View; watching the sun set before the fireworks; boating on Walloon; making s'mores around the campfire. It's my second-favorite holiday, rivaling Christmas and coming close to edging it out just by virtue of the glorious weather.

This was the first year that Annie dared to jump in (wearing her lifejacket) and paddle around by herself in the lake; she and Jason swam underneath the boat and delighted Jemma every time they came back out. This was the first year that Jemma held her own marshmallow over the coals and waved it slowly from side to side. This was the first year that we've stayed for the whole parade and then gone right out on the boat, defying naptime altogether and putting the girls to bed, sleepy and full of sugar and sunscreen, very early in the evening.

I snuck away a few times - to town, to read down by the dock, and to run on the trails near Camp Daggett. As I tackled one dusty hill after another, I thought about how this holiday is different from the ones in the past. When Jason and I were dating, then married with no kids, we did fun things outside every minute of the day. We stayed up late, eating and drinking on the lawn of the Perry Hotel, waiting to watch the fireworks. We played bad tennis, we drank beer and played cards on the boat, we rode our bikes to Harbor Springs just to drink a Bloody Mary on the deck of the Pier.

After Annie was born, we were lucky to make it to a parade at all, much less fireworks, much less lounging around drinking or eating. Over the last few years, we've adapted. We've missed our share of fun due to naps and we've had lots of hurried meals and frantic drives to beat crowds, but it's fun of a whole other variety to watch Jemma's eyes grow big with wonder as a sucker lands at her feet while a float goes by or to see Annie get up and dance when the bagpipes play.

I realized, as I ran, that I used to MIND the fact that having children had limited my ability to life as freely and easily as I used to live. And even though I got up with a sick child in the middle of the night, cut short a parade to make it home for a nap, missed the fireworks or a concert or a fun event because of bedtime, it was hard. I admit: every time I scraped back my chair to chase an "All Done!" toddler when my meal sat untouched on my plate, I harbored the teeniest, tiniest scrap of resentment - not at my kids, really, but at . . . the situation. At the fact that it was almost always ME who got up to do those things, who had had to change my life so radically to accommodate these needs.

And I admit, although I'm actually not proud that it's taken me nearly five years of parenting to do it, that I don't MIND, anymore. Jemma, who was 100% completely, totally healthy when we left on Thursday, got a bad cold while we were up north, and I was up with her most of the night last night. Instead of feeling angry, resentful, bitter (instead of calculating how much sleep I was losing), I felt OK. Not thrilled, but actually sort of glad to be able to comfort my girl. Not pleased, but able to have enough perspective that this, too, shall pass.

So Happy Fourth of July, little girls. You are seeming not-so-little to me, this year. And I am feeling ever-so-grateful to be your Mommy.

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