Earlier this week, to the secret pond. In truth, it is not a secret pond, just a quiet one, and one that had been a secret to us for the first four years we lived nearby. Bee and I discovered it on an errant right turn and have been turning right ever since – on Saturday afternoons to kill time, on Wednesday evenings to picnic, on Friday mornings to explore.
It’s special to us, not in that it’s perfect, but in that it’s ours.
And so, on a random Tuesday afternoon, we gathered a pouch and a snack to adventure before dinner. It had been a busy week already, and my tendency is to hunker down during the busy season, to hole up, to hide out, to stay in. And yet, our souls were craving sunshine and the day had offered it, and so, as we do in the Midwest, we took it, and we used it, and we were grateful.
You know me well by now, and you know that I am not, by nature, an adventurer. In a ski resort, I will be at the lodge – horizontal – on a sofa by the fire, reading. At the beach, I will be on the sand – horizontal – on a chair by the tide, reading. And when Bee and I first began making our right turn, when we first began visiting our secret pond, I’d brought a book nearly every time. And yet, somewhere along the way, I became vertical.
The books have remain unopened on our adventures, then and now, because Bee is a toddler and toddlers do not rest. They do not stop, or slow, except to discover a crowd of small worms on the dock, and “Look Mom! A turtle!” On our last visit to the secret pond, she had stacked a pile of sticks, leaves, debris. What had she called it? A lookout tower?
I made it for you, Mom, she had said.
And the excitement is palpable, and her enthusiasm contagious, and I do not dare open the book. I do not dare rest, because there will be many moments ahead – months, seasons, lifetimes – of rest, and I do not dare miss the chance to explore with a toddler, and do you see it? Right there? There is a turtle. Worms. Life. Here it all is.
This time at the pond, it is “Look, Mom! Rocks!” Dozens of tiny stones, the latest craze, nature’s greatest hits collection, the same and so different all at once. They are the choir, we the audience, and Bee searches and listens and chooses the perfect pebbled notes to take home. We are making something beautiful, she will later say, and her mind is made.
And so, after the exploration, after there are dirt smudges on her dress and sweaty tendrils under her headscarf, we retire at home in the dining room – Bee’s art studio – for necklace making. Rocks in her hand, glue gun in mine.
Do you remember the magic of crafternoons? Do you remember you, and the magazine clippings, and the Mod Podge, the sponge brush, the vision? Do you remember sticks and twine, dream-catchers in the making? Cereal boxes into dollhouses, rocks into pets, tissue paper into a blooming red rose with a pipe-cleaner stem?
I made it for you, Mom, we had said.
It was not long ago.
As I finish gluing her necklace and she displays the creation with pride, she will pause, and smile, and she will say something altogether lovely:
This one, I made for me.
p.s. This is an essay for Olive Juice, one of my favorite brands vowing to bring a bit of yesteryear back into our lives – and the lives of our littles. Bee is wearing the Christina Jumper (available in Girls’ sizes 2Y to 12Y), Dotty’s Kerchief and Chambray Bebe Bloomers. Thank you for reading!