"Let's go on a bug hunt," my youngest said. A first coating of mud was already hardening under his stubby fingernails. His smile exploded across his face.
"Give me a second," I walked inside and changed out of my pajama bottoms, then refilled my coffee cup.
I didn't want to go on a bug hunt. I wanted to sit at the kitchen table and check Facebook updates on my phone. To crawl up into myself like a hermit crab.
The boys tumbled into the kitchen, "We need bread! We need bread!" my oldest sang.
"For the bugs! For the bugs!" yelped the youngest.
I had hoped they had forgotten. Every pore sighed as I trudged over to the cabinet, dug out the butt end of a loaf. I forced a smile, and reached for my sunglasses. "Let's go!"
We walked through our neighborhood, and as the boys handed me Black-Eyed Susans, rocks, and green gum ball pods, I berated myself. Shake this off. Enough. Smile and mean it.
I held on to my youngest hand, called out "Red Light," whenever my oldest ran away too far. We trudged up a hill, our meanderings leading us to the beach, to my beloved Chesapeake.
And there were waves. Not the normal gentle nudges, like those of a lapdog. These were Golden Retriever waves. Crashing, Wind swept, full of salt and danger and light.
We rested by the water's edge. I held my boys close, as the surf splashed our faces and arms. Then, I stood up. I waded in.
The water smacked my legs, drenching my yoga pants and shirt. The boys ran toward me. Youngest gripped my hand, as each wave pounded his frame. "I won't let you go," I said. I was grateful for my sunglasses, as I blinked back the tears, "I will always be here for you."
"Okay, Mommy," he said, "Jump! Jump! Jump!"
My oldest rode the waves, body-surfing for the first time in his five years. For the first time that day, I smiled without trying.
Because this is what a lifetime of liturgy does to a person, I remembered my baptism. I closed my eyes and felt the water, and remembered that I am never truly alone. That family and love and the grace of a spontaneous morning swim are stronger than hard mornings and illness and Daddy being gone a lot to see Grandma.
We walked home, sodden but light. I gave the boys baths, and we washed away all that clung to us.
And then, finally, joyfully, we set out into the world.