I’m back from Eastport and summer vacation has started in earnest. Eastport was fabulous … better than good. Relaxing, hilarious, productive … did I mention relaxing? And the Strident Women (5 out of 6 of us) turned out to be a very compatible bunch — no arguing over who’s hogging the bathroom or whose turn it is to do the dishes.
It was also relaxing. Wait, I said that.
Summer vacation at home with the kids is relaxing too, but it’s a different kind of relaxing. Let’s see — a day at Eastport with “the girls” might include: little bit of writing, little bit of reading, hanging around the living room talking and laughing about Jennifer’s convoluted plans for a living will, lying in the hammock, writing a bit more …. While my first day of summer vacation included: helping the kids make Rice Krispie cookies, taking the kids to swimming lessons, taking them to the playground, taking them to the library on their bikes to watch a swordfighting demonstration by the Society for Creative Anachronism … you get the picture.
We covered a lot of ground today, but some of our adventures were closer to home. Last night we discovered that we have a nest of tender young creatures, freshly hatched, living in our back yard. Emma found them, called me, and then we showed Christopher (Jason was out at the time). Watching the miracle of young life is always special, whether they’re adorable baby birds or adorable baby … spiders. Which is what we have — a nest of several hundred tiny baby arachnids.
I might have swept them casually off the edge of the swing set with a brief, “Eewww, spiders!” if Emma hadn’t said, “Oh, just like Charlotte’s babies!” The kids love Charlotte’s Web, especially the touching scene at the end when Charlotte’s posthumous babies hatch and fly off to freedom on their silken threads. Charlotte has managed the challenging feat of humanizing spiders, even for me. So we’re planning to wait and watch, to see how our few hundred babies emerge into independence.
Emma, thrilled by the discovery, clearly wanted to share it with the world. I could see her frustration because if this were school she could tell everyone about it at carpet time. Without school, she’s lost her usual platform. She suggested maybe we could tell the pastor and he could announce it in church. I thought this might be assigning a little too much significance to the arachnid nursery, but I suggested that the next time I had children’s story in church she could help me tell everyone about the spiders.
I’m not entirely sure what moral lesson I’ll draw from the baby spiders. I know that my lot in life is much better than Charlotte’s — I get to have my babies and help them grow into independence, watching their first tentative steps; watching as they zip down the block on their bikes; watching, someday, as they pack the car to drive to college. Spider babies have to learn independence a lot sooner — but then, they have a lot less to learn. I’m glad the Creator arranged human development in such a way that we generally get to stick around and walk our children through those first stages of life, when there are so many skills to develop.
Christopher passed a little milestone today when he walked up to the store by himself for the first time to buy milk for breakfast. Admittedly, I was running errands at the store when I was Emma’s age, but in those days we lived in the house next to this one and there was a convenience store on our side of the street. Every corner had a corner store in those days, a friendly Mom-and-Pop-shop where children could be early indoctrinated into the art of going to the store (and its corresponding reward, “You can keep that for going”). At about age seven I proudly ran my first errand, skipping five doors down to Mrs. Bennett’s shop to say, “Aunt Gertie wants some green peas to put in the gravy to make the gravy wavy.” (Really. I can explain, but only if you ask).
Nowadays our “corner store” is a chain convenience store located in the gas station across the very busy street. Chris has been asking for awhile when he can go himself, but I haven’t yet been ready for him to navigate the crosswalk without supervision. We get a lot of traffic here, and while my kids are fairly streetwise and I completely trust their ability to use a crosswalk correctly, I don’t trust the average Newfoundland driver, many of whom treat crosswalks as a quaint and entirely optional custom imported from “away.”
So I let Chris go off with five dollars in his pocket and sat on the front step watching while he walked up to the crosswalk, crossed carefully when nothing was coming, and went into the store. A few minutes later he came out happily carrying two litres of milk, waited for a break, and crossed when someone stopped for him. I cringed as a garbage truck came barrelling up in the opposite direction and for a second I thought it might not stop for him, but it did, and moments later he was on the front step, presenting me with the milk. He had a dollar and one cent change. “You can keep that for going,” I said.
It was an exciting moment for both of us — one more strand in the web of independence he’s spinning for himself.