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  • Kristan Higgins

Warm heart, scorched feet

The other day, we went to the beach—McIrish, the Princess, the Firefighter, the Peeper and yours truly. Oh, it was a glorious day! The water was a balmy 60 degrees, it was high tide and the waves were big and gentle.

But the little Peeper was not having it. His grandfather dipped his feet in the waves, but he started to cry. Too cold? Too unexpected? Was he too tired? Drat. His parents had been so excited to have him enjoy his time on the beach, and they both wanted to swim and frolic in the waves.

Nana to the rescue.

As a mom, I had this idea that I had to be a superhero for my kids. I wanted them to be loved, secure, happy, responsible and yes, in awe of their mama. Piggyback ride? Of course! It didn’t matter how big they were…I’d do it, because I sorely remember the day my mom told me I was too big to pick up (and to be fair, I was a “healthy” girl, and Mom was not the Amazon I am). Sledding? Of course! Cookies afterward? Warm from the oven. You want to swim? Mommy will go in with you, and pretend not to be terrified of the ocean, so you won’t inherit that fear. Bad day? How about if we stay up late and watch Animal Planet and I make you toast with cinnamon and sugar? Rainy day? Let’s make a fort. You want a dump truck birthday cake? I’ll figure it out. You need a camel to bring into school today? Camel made.

I wanted to be the perfect mom, and I worked really, really hard at it. If there was only one thing I could have carved on my gravestone, it would be She was a really good mother, and we’re grateful. (Kids, take note.)

But now I have a new goal. Be a wonderful grandma. I’m not going for perfect this time, and the Peeper’s other grandma is utterly fabulous and wonderful, too, so he’s a lucky boy.

But on the beach the other day, I felt some of that superhero juice again. I wanted to go swimming, too, but my little friend was unhappy. My daughter and her husband deserved a little fun time, and my husband is part dolphin. “I’ve got this,” I said, taking my wee little grandson in my arms. “I’ll walk back to the car and drive around, and you guys can swim.”

They were all very grateful. McIrish loves swimming with his little girl, helping her out into the deeper water, just like he did when she was tiny. Firefighter Mike had driven to the Cape for a 24-hour stay, so he deserved some fun, too. And my daughter…well, anything for her, right? She’s my firstborn.

They went back into the water, and the Peeper and I hustled over the hot sand. Alas, I had left my shoes back at the blanket, but that was okay. My feet are tough (as described in other, horrific posts about pedicures and such). We walked up the winding path into the parking lot, which was wicked hot, I knew the trick—walk on the white lines and grass whenever possible. I literally hot-footed it across the lot, the Peeper no longer crying but happily drooling on my shoulder. It wasn’t that much further, I told my feet. Besides, I was Nana, and the type of Nana who would sacrifice a little skin to make my Peeper happy.

We had parked down the road a bit, and the path was shady and lovely. I described the trees to him—maple, oak, locust, poison ivy. He cooed in response. We got to the car, and I buckled him into his car seat, got in myself and drove around a bit. He was tired, and he fussed a little, so I sang him the song I made up for him, adding another verse about how the little baby goes to sleep.

About forty-five minutes later, I got the call that the swimmers were ready to be picked up. I swung around to fetch them, and they told me how they’d seen a seal eat a fish, and how fun swimming was, how warm the mighty Atlantic. The Peeper stopped fussing with his mama in the back with him, and when we got home, he took a nap.

My feet were a little toasted, which will make me remember to put on shoes the next time. And, when my three darlings packed up and drove off, I followed my grandson’s lead…and took a nap.


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