It's been days of sandy feet and brown skin flashing in the bleak May sun of South Carolina. Afternoons lazing around the screen porch with books and the sounds of the birds over the marsh and the wind through the palmettos. A foreign climate and culture that's begun to tarnish to the comfortable feeling of home over the 5 summers we've spent here. This place is full of romance and familiar haunts, tattooed surfers striding home in the sunset and the smell of salt on the afternoon breeze. A magical place to make memories for little people.
Today we napped together, shivering in the air conditioning as the wind howled around the corners of the house on stilts. We went down to the main street late in the morning, and came home laden with beautiful shells, shovels, and inner tubes. The kids all wanted to ride the waves on the top, after days of body surfing and boogie boarding and being pummeled to the sandy bottom by the crash of the break. I gamely blew 20 minutes of breath into the tubes and we shivered into our suits, cursing the air conditioning that a few days ago couldn't eradicate the crushing humidity.
They piled in the back of the truck, and I in front, barefoot, with the hiphop blaring. We jived our way down to the far end of the island, the side we've never been too, I feeling adventurous and they always game for my hare-brained ideas. The beach was cold and deserted, lashed with 30 mile an hour winds, and only surfers in body suits could be seen out in the waves. None of this triggered my "mommy alarm", though, and we waded into the gray seas. I quickly realized they were gray because the break was only a short way out, and the sand was being stirred up into the water by the powerful waves. We shuddered in our line of fiercely gripped hand-holds, the waves driving the children past me even though we were all still on our feet. I pulled them as hard as I could, back to shore.
The little girls were screaming with cold, but their shrieks only grew louder as we scurried out of the water and back into the cold air. They talked (or shrieked) me into taking them back out with the tubes. I gripped their taught little bodies and propelled them back to shore over the tops of the breaking waves. Katy, the cautious eldest, stood on the shore screaming at us to come back to safety. Caleb was completely disoriented, and tried to get back out through the waves to me. Stunned by the force of nature whirling around us, I could barely gather my wits enough to herd them back to the sand. Someday they'll tell hilarious stories about the day their mother took them swimming in the hurricane (I learned from the weather station back at home that Tropical Storm Alberto is bearing down on the "Edge of America" as Folly Beach is known).
Somewhere between the shrieks and the howl of the wind, the aching beauty that is the tragedy and miracle of motherhood seeped through. The gray sandy feet pattering over the worn boards of the beach walk, the music throbbing through the speakers and four kids bopping in the rear view mirror, the goose bumps on my son's brown skin as I hold him close to warm him with my body... We know this dance of the sacred and the mundane, the beautiful and the drudgery, the sacrifice and the pay-out, we mothers. We feel it deep when words can't capture and memory can't hold the little joys of the everyday miracles. Our souls sing with the rhythm of life that plays out in detail before our eyes in the lives of our children. We live and breath hard work, yet in the cracks of life seeps that aching beauty: the blush on a baby's cheek, the smell of your young cuddled up to your neck, the 100 watt smiles of childhood happiness, the muddy feet and the bug bitten legs, the birdsong of little girls' laughter and the earthier burliness of our sons.
In our failures there is beauty...in our success there are shortcomings. Whether a failed beach trip in stormy seas that has our children shivering and shrieking, or a long lazy afternoon sitting on the dock listening to the dolphins talk to each other, it is beautiful, this dance and work of motherhood. The memories of our children will be highlight reels of the highs and lows of our family life. But I treasure a richer and fuller sense of the organic wonder of this mundane miraculous, a collection of vignettes that open the heart of the Father to my understanding, the wonder of His love and the tenacity of the hope we hold dear for those we love most.