There was a moment, on our first full day of vacation—I think it was post-boardwalking, post rock-throwing, post lunch and ice cream and toy store and swimming—when Scott and I were each flat upon one of the hotel room’s queen-sized beds, exhausted. Simone was pretending to be a dog: she’d fashioned a piece of Play-Doh into a ball and I was throwing it for her to fetch. She’d bring it back to me, and without sitting up, I’d toss it again with what little energy I had. Twyla was happy on the carpet, having discovered a miniature cereal box left over from the breakfast buffet. So there we were, no sounds except Simone’s fake-dog panting, the crinkling of an empty cereal bag, and the periodic WHUMP of the Play-Doh ball hitting the glass door to the balcony, and I started to laugh. “This is some A-1 parenting right here,” I said. Scott moaned in response.
We rallied, but really, the energy of children astonishes me, and vacationing with children is—well, my fingers want to type that it is the best of times, it is the worst of times, but that isn’t really true. Mostly it is the best, but I won’t deny that the addition of small moody people with unpredictable desires and predictably erratic sleep schedules complicates one’s leisure-taking.
Every August (this was year three) we go to Duluth, to the lake, for a summer send-off, something we look forward to all year long. And last year, I warned Scott that the next year, this year, 2013, would likely be the most difficult, what with the 14-month-y-ness of Twyla. And it WAS harder than last year, when Twyla was essentially an immobile, sleepy lump, but it was not nearly as hard as I’d imagined (one of the perks of having a very alarmist imagination, I suppose). I’d forgotten to account, too, for the probability that Twyla would be old enough not only to make restaurant meals exhausting, but also to interact with Simone in ways that warmed the cockles of my heart, whatever those are. One evening they spent close to an hour playing together in our room, Simone dashing to hide behind a heavy curtain while Twyla ran, lurching and shrieking, to reveal her. Over and over, back and forth, demonstrably (and loudly) enjoying one another. Sure, this was the year I got almost no reading done, the year I walked pensively along the shore in only the briefest of intervals, but it was also the year of all of this:
Somehow we also ended up with a large subset of photos of people looking inexplicably morose, even Twyla, who has never been morose a day in her life. I call this one “Ennui at the Seashore”:
One particularly overcast morning combined with an empty rock beach to recreate Bergman’s neglected masterpiece “Ledsen Bebis”:
And Twyla kept grabbing up handfuls of rocks and trying to scoot into the sea, like a tiny Virginia Woolf:
Speaking of pictures, I’d decided I wanted more with me in them. I have thousands of the girls, and a fair number even of the girls with Scott, but I am not in many, partly because I am usually the one behind the camera but also, I admit, because I don’t particularly care for the way I look in photographs. The thing is, though, that the few pictures I DO have of Alexa en Famille have ended up being rather precious to me, and from the vantage point of the future, I always think I look less terrible than I thought I looked at the time, meaning that when I am old and crepey I will likely laugh bitterly at thirty-something Alexa’s insecurities, just as thirty-something Alexa would like to slap 17-year-old Alexa across the face for taking her youth so thoroughly for granted. I want the girls to have pictures of themselves with their mother, and there is simply no getting around the fact that I’m the mother in question. So I tried, this year, to hand the camera (well, phone) off to Scott.
Alas, the results mostly fell into one of several categories:
Ruined by uncooperative children:
All of the above:
I got one passable picture of me with Twyla where the shadowy lighting was fixed by applying a certain weird pink vintage-y filter, but then…weird pink vintage-y filter:
Better luck next year (when Twyla will be two, and thus not difficult to wrangle at all). Maybe I’ll make Scott practice first, or better yet, press some unsuspecting stranger into service to take a picture of all FOUR of us next summer, when we return for more stone-skipping and gelato-eating and balcony-lounging.
Until then, to sharpen my sleep-deprived memories of our vacation, the second with both girls there, but the first with both girls present, I have the single most spectacular photograph ever, of my two lovely children, together: