We overcame family inertia and went to Halibut Point State Park for the holiday. Even though it’s not open for swimming, we thought that the kids would find the quarry fascinating.
In the van on the ride up to Cape Ann, one of them introduced the topic of wills. “Hey, what happens to us if you guys die?” was the opening question. We all discussed this at length, and Jimmy and I outlined our so-called “estate plan” (who gets them and our life insurance money). The three of them called for a revision, and they had some good ideas. Eli offered to become guardian of the girls if he’s 18 when we die: “I would take good care of them.”
Grace eventually called for an end to the conversation. She also doubted the likelihood of such a catastrophic family event, saying, “Mama can’t die.” Eli answered, “That’s right. She’s a machine.”
I asked them all about words they disliked. (This is a game my sister Sally came up with years ago.) We had fun with this. Lydia answered so quickly, it was almost as if she were waiting for a chance to say them.
Lydia: I hate the word girdle. And jiggle. Oh, and jelly. But I like the word jam. And I don’t like the word gravy. Or regurgitate.
Eli: When I was younger, I didn’t like the word vat. And now I don’t like when people swear in a way that doesn’t sound good. Like when they’re trying too hard. It sounds good in a movie, in dialogue, but not when people talk.
Grace: I hate the word empathy! It sounds like one of those pencils that don’t have an eraser and scrape my ears! (She mimed putting her hands over her ears.)
Jane: Here’s a word I dislike that students use all the time, once they discover it: plethora. I also dislike moist. Yet I like wet. And I hate the word vinaigrette.
Words they liked? Simultaneous (Eli). Pathetic (Grace). Linoleum (Lydia).
Someone’s iPod and speakers made the rounds among the backseats, and the three of them took turns playing DJ. Eli played “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson and said that his camp’s folk band is doing a version of it. (That should be an improvement.) Grace picked “Soulja Boy” by Soulja Boy (good thing she can’t decipher the lyrics). Lydia, who has an ear for singers and loves a song that’s a real song, treated us to “Mercy” by Duffy. Watch this (there’s fire), and listen:
Before we headed to the quarry, we went into town to get some lunch. Lydia, who has been to Rockport the most recently of all of us, with a friend and her mother, blurted, “I know a good place to eat! It’s like a fish house, but it has grilled cheese.” We looked for such a place; we found one.
At the quarry, finally, the kids, who are all excellent swimmers, wondered why there was no swimming allowed. “Someone could drown,” I speculated. They wondered how deep it is. I guessed 100 feet and then discovered later that it’s 60. We found some gravel and threw it in. They pried up egg-sized stones, stood at the top of 40-foot ledges, and tossed them in. Plop. Grace and Eli found a few rocks the size of, oh, lunch boxes. Only Eli was strong enough to heave them in, which he did. Humongous splash. By that time, he had an audience of two elderly people and their grown daughter, who misread a caution sign and kept calling the park “Danger Quarry.”
None of us fell in, but Jimmy experienced many times that parent gut-clutch, when kids get too close to the side, which they did, many times, because they’re kids.
Of course, everything fell apart on the ride home. I drove. There was teasing, “monkey bites” (a kind of pinching), and parental irritation. Many times Jimmy told Eli (future guardian of the girls?) to keep his hands to himself. Grace cried. Lydia giggled. I said to Jimmy that I wished there were a way to call ahead and have a pot of coffee waiting when I walked in the door.
We made it.