52 Weeks of Brotherhood, Week 25
The day they learned to boogie board… oh, the sheer joy. If I could have contained it, bottled it for the winter months that loom ahead, I would spoon feed it to them on the days when nothing is going right. Those days when having a brother is the worst. When everything the other one does pokes and prods, annoys and aggravates, stresses and angers. I’d pour it over their cereal when they wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I’d pack it in their school lunches so they’d be on their best behavior upon returning to the classroom after lunch; their teachers would love me the most. I’d mix it into all of our dinners; I’d never, ever hear another complaint about what meal I concocted this time. No more time outs. No more arguments. No more whining. All would be well with the two brothers in our home.
I’d sneak a sip for myself now and again, of course.
For the joy they experienced on the day that they learned to boogie board happens to be a joy that we lose somewhere later in life. I remember it… almost. A hazy summer day on a beach not too far from where they caught a wave onto the shore, leapt up with joy, and ran back out into the ocean pulling the flimsy board on a long string behind them. My brown hair a mess with salt and sand, sunblock running into my eyes, I’d jump back on that board and wait. And wait. And miss one. And have a flop of a wave. And paddle and kick and shimmy back out a little bit. And then, and then, you’d know you caught the right wave before you even started to move. And whoosh, the thrill of racing toward the shore, the giggle with the open mouth which sometimes results in big gulps of salt water. But never you mind, because as soon as I washed up on shore, I was back at it. And so were they.
I watched, standing ankle deep in the waves. The parent now, on high alert, my gaze darted back and forth. Were the waves too rough? Had they been playing too long? Were they getting too tired? Did they need a break? “Close your mouth!” I’d yell over the rush of the water, over the giggles and laughter pouring forth from both boys. Despite myself, despite my position as lifeguarding parent, I smiled, awash in my own memories.
Sometimes I’d make them stop riding the waves so I could sit, take a break from my duty of eye-darting and close-your-mouth-yelling and general-parenting. They’d whine. “I don’t need a break.” “Well, I do.” I’d tell them to “surf” in the surf, standing on their boards in the very last offerings of the waves, of the ocean. They’d giggle and stand, offering each other tips for their surfing endeavors. They’d fall and crash into one another, but the arguing never equaled that which comes on dry land, land-locked hours from the freedom and fun of the shore.
Later in the week, I stole a boogie board from the boys or the cousins or whomever and went out to catch two waves. I almost felt that joy — that sheer elation of the power of the ocean beneath you. Then the wave slammed me into the shell shelf and I gulped a bunch of water — because I forgot to close my mouth.
The two of them decided they earned the rank of Professional Boogie Boarders. I agreed. “You guys did quite well.” Non-stop chatter as we walked back the boardwalk to our beach house. “You’re okay too, Mommy. You know, at boogie boarding.”
I’m okay, too.