Just like Edward Lear’s owl and pussycat, two of our grandkids spent the week with us so they could attend sailing camp. As far as I know, they didn’t sail a pea-green boat, or see a Bong Tree, or meet a Piggy-wig, or eat mince or quince with a runcible spoon, but they sure had a blast. So did we, but I won’t lie: there’s a different pace to life when a ten and an eight year old are in the house. The dishwasher fills up at every meal, the washing machine is full twice a day, devices are charging everywhere and the giggling never stops. But now they’re gone and as much as I enjoy my peas and carrots—my euphemism for peace and quiet—the house feels half-empty instead of overflowing with the zest of children.
My wife and I have nothing but wonderful things to say about sailing camp. Staffed by volunteers who know a lot about sailing, and as much, if not more, about kids, the hours these young sailors spent on the water paid dividends twice-over. It’s amazing what a novice sailor can learn about how to use wind to move a boat across water in just fifteen hours (better check my math: 3 hours a day for five days). But just as importantly, they also learned lessons about themselves: self-confidence, teamwork, competition and camaraderie. We recommend the experience highly: it’s worth every penny and every extra load of laundry.
But there’s more. The presence of the kids in our house rejuvenates us. I pretend to be grumpy—my usual morning greeting to them was “Are you still here?”—but I have to say they make my heart sing. Perhaps more importantly, they give my wife a new sense of purpose. I suppose once a mother, always a mother, but now that her kids have their own kids, her grandmother time with them becomes all-the-more precious. When the kids are here, her maternal instincts reignite and she lives for them in a way that’s different from our life together. Hear me: I’m not complaining, it’s just a marvel to behold. Her youthful energy lasts from breakfast in the morning to cuddles at night. I’m the support person, the one who loads and unloads the dishwasher or switches the laundry or helps make the beds. She is the motor that runs the show, or, in this case, the wind that fills our sails.
On the kids’ first night here, Kiki—my wife’s grandmother name—decided we would have a fondue dinner. I was…dubious. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with two monkeys sticking sharp skewers into a pot of boiling oil? But, as is often the case, I was wrong. Not only did they eat everything in sight—the beef, the chicken, the broccoli, the onions, even the cauliflower—but they also landed on a whole new culinary shore. Chicken nuggets be damned! Where’s the fondue pot?
Now the kids are gone. The optis, lasers, and sunfish are lined up lonely on the beach. The house is quiet again. It has been two days since we ran the dishwasher. But I wonder: maybe when the kids got back home, did they dance by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon, did they dance by the light of the moon?
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.