Hosepipe.

If I understand the differences in regional dialects correctly, some of y’all don’t call this a hosepipe.

IMG_7848

You call it a “garden hose” or just a “hose” or some other type of gibberish.

In Alabama, we call it summer entertainment.

IMG_7813[4]

That is, unless you’re not the one holding the hosepipe. Then it’s called a source of great anxiety.

IMG_7762

Or, more likely, a sure thing.

IMG_7772

But once you get past that initial moistening and it melts the southern summer heat off of your overclothed legs, you realize it’s not such a bad fate after all.

IMG_7773

The hosepipe holder, however, must take occasional moments of solace to ponder the gravity of his position,

IMG_7787

As well as study the Geometry of the task at hand.

IMG_7788

Like a Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace, he must also perfect his posture and carriage of weaponry.

IMG_7809

But don’t worry. He’ll remember you exist.

IMG_7845

And he’ll take care of all of your cooling needs.

IMG_7883

ALL of them.

IMG_8025

Until you start to wish that you didn’t exist.

IMG_7952

IMG_8016

At which time you can simply move along, and let him get back to his training,

IMG_7849

His marching of the perimeter,

IMG_7857

And his technique testing.

IMG_7874

Because it’s serious work.

IMG_7865

Grueling even.

IMG_7964

But if the hosepipe is taken away, great heartache will commence.

IMG_8030

Grieving will become necessary for all involved.

IMG_8032

Well – almost all.

IMG_8042

Because turnabout…is fair play.

IMG_7921

The Gravity of Granting Permission.

Father's Day DadI’m not one to write a post for a particular day such as Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and especially not Father’s or Mother’s Day. I don’t even acknowledge it on Facebook or change my profile picture to include the appropriate parent.

I know – I‘m a social media pariah.

I get my cynical anti-bandwagon genetic makeup from my father. He and I are very much alike – we don’t express our deep sentiments too freely and especially not in public.

So the fact that I’m about to actually write a Father’s Day post should be noted as monumental. And also should not be expected to have a sequel. Ever. But I was overcome this morning with the urge to tell one story.

I got engaged at 18, and we set our wedding date for six months later when I would be the seasoned age of 19.

Chris had not only asked my Dad’s permission to marry me (and endured two weeks of complete silence before he received an answer), but had also asked his permission to date me a year earlier. Or, as he worded to my dad, “May I date your daughter with the intention of marrying her?”

Upon that first questioning, after spending an afternoon mulling over his own opinion (we’re also both mullers), Dad came to me and said “I’m fine with it, but do you want to date him? Because if you don’t I’ll tell him no and then you won’t have to do it.”

I had known I was going to marry Chris for at least three months (way before Chris realized it), so I was agreeable to date the guy. But I was fairly surprised that my Dad was skippy about the whole thing – after all, he’d spent seventeen years frightening away any potential suitors with his intimidating silence and vague illusions to loaded weapons. I’d never dated anyone, and Chris, although fantastic in every way, was twenty-three years old. A freaking adult.

But this story happened after the second permission granted by my Dad, and after Chris and I got engaged.

Within a month, I started battling crippling anxiety. The kind that would make me have to leave work because I couldn’t quit crying. I realized that this anxiety was centralized around my upcoming wedding when I couldn’t sleep one night until I hid my veil in the closet.

Being an analytical person, I had to understand why, because I certainly wanted to marry Chris with all my heart. I began to realize that I was terrified of making this decision. Nineteen-year-old me loved Chris and desperately wanted to be with him. However, this was a decision – the decision above all decisions – that would affect the rest of my life. What made me qualified to make this decision for every other iteration of me that there would ever be? And most crucially, was I absolutely positive that this was God’s will for my life? Because above everything, that was what I needed to know – the assurance that I was entering into this because God wanted me to, and not just because I selfishly desired it. If I had that, then I knew the future would be okay.

It was October, my wedding was in March, and during the next two months my anxiety steadily increased. I went from being a nearly unemotional person to a constant mess. And when I wasn’t anxious, I was anxious about becoming anxious. I told my parents and Chris about my inner struggle. I prayed. I cried. I searched the scriptures for reassurance. But God was silent.

Chris, meanwhile, was terrified, although he didn’t tell me this for several years. On the outside he was supportive and steady, but he thought I was working toward breaking up with him.

My anxiety ruined the holidays for me, and nearly halted my wedding planning because thinking about it filled me with an unbearable fear. (Maybe that’s why I was still arranging my cake plan forty days beforehand.)

Finally, on the evening of New Year’s Day, I broke down with my parents. In between ugly, hiccuping sobs, I told them, “I just need to KNOW. I need to know that this is the right decision! I can’t keep going on like this.”

And my Dad, who had always been reserved with his words and certainly had never shown any glee about giving his only daughter to another man, said,

“Look at me. You know how long I’ve prayed about this and that I spent two weeks agonizing over it before I gave Chris permission to ask you. Do you really think that I would have said yes if I wasn’t absolutely convinced that it was God’s will for you?”

The effect was immediate.

The burden disintegrated and I knew with my entire heart that he was right. This was the word that I had been looking for, assurance that I wasn’t even sure was possible, and now I was completely confident in my decision.

Although I still struggled with chemical anxiety until after the wedding, it had nothing to do with the upcoming marriage. My assurance never faltered again, and I was able to enter into marriage with an undoubting heart that was full of anticipation and joy. And my Dad seemed pretty happy, too.

Wedding Picture With Dad

In the thirteen years that have followed, I have never, ever questioned my decision.

Because of the gravity my Dad took in helping me make that crucial choice, I now have a magnificent father for my own children – a father who takes on their upbringing with just as much passion and responsibility.

Father's Day

(And a good bit of whimsy.)

So for all of the times that my Dad scared the crap out of me about associating with unsavory men (geez – I got grounded one time just because I was with my older brother and he didn’t call before we went somewhere else, so there was no way I was going to hang out with anyone worse than a not-call-homer), I am eternally thankful.

It was never many words, but the ones he did say shaped the rest of my life.

Seven Years Comin’

From our honeymoon onward, Chris and have I adored the beach. We would spend entire days laying on the sandy shores of Alabama, reading, napping, swimming, and living as if we had no responsibilities.

NONE.

It was our most freeing happy place in the world.

And then, six years into marriage, we had a baby. A highly anticipated, two-years-in-the-making precious baby girl.

We thought, naturally, that this baby would share our love for the responsibility-free beach trip. We were sure that this baby would also like to spend long days laying on the beach, reading, napping, swimming, and never, EVER throwing a wrench into our responsibility-free happy place.

This was stupid.

So, so stupid.

We mourned the beach. We worried that it would never be the same again. We had soiled our happy place forever and it was time to grow up and face the facts that we would never be free of responsibility ever again.

EVER.

Even as we regained other selfish freedoms of which we had also mourned, like, say, sleeping through the night, the beach was still work.

Each beach trip onward from that first treacherous infant beach trip (from which we came home and cried in the bathroom floor) has gotten easier and more fun, but our trips have still been inundated with children afraid of waves, afraid of sand, afraid of crabs, needing to nap, and wanting us to – PLAY – with them instead of laying like slobs on the beach.

But.

But.

BUT.

I am here to proclaim, with joyous exultation, that IT DOES HAPPEN.

The thrill of the beach does in fact return.

I’m not saying that I read a novel while laying on the beach this year, but I did indeed feel that freeness from responsibility and thorough enjoyment of my once was lost but now is found Happy Place.

I had no idea that this would be the Year of Jubilee until I walked the kids down to the beach for the first time.

IMG_6705

Chris was gone to buy groceries and I just wanted to check out the scenery, so we were all fully clothed and simply investigating. After all, last I knew, Noah still hated moving water of any sort.

Until he ran in and jumped with no reservations.

IMG_6768

And Ali, my even more cautious child, also found great delight in the Gulf.

IMG_6719

I finally did remove Noah’s polo shirt, leaving him in his khaki shorts clearly showing his Thomas the Train underwear through the thin cotton as if he were in an upside-down wet T-Shirt contest. But he didn’t care. And neither did I.

IMG_6803

And then their friends AJ and Tessa arrived – those with whom we would spend our vacation – and it only got better.

IMG_6910

They played together, gloriously un-high-maintenance, as the sun set.

140523e Sharing

It was a beautiful, glorious thing.

140523f Long Shadows

We had regained the blissfulness of The Beach Trip.

140523b Playtime Never Ends at the Beach

And they were fully experiencing it as well – perhaps for the first time ever.

140523c One Last Bucket of Water

Tessa was even kind enough to stand RIGHT IN THE SUNSET BEAM – without me posing her. These kids are the best.

140523g Surf and Sky

(For all four night’s sunset photos, click here.)

The next day, when we actually were responsible enough to put our kids in swimsuits, they played for four hours straight – while we mainly sat in our chairs in the surf and watched them.

IMG_6828

We basked in the glory of what had to be one of the Top Ten Parenting Moments of our career.

IMG_6824

When we got hot, we’d increase their joy and take them out past the waves for a float, where we got to watch sting rays and dolphins swim by.

IMG_7329

(In the above picture, the dolphins are to the left and the Dads and Kids are to the right.)

(The sting rays got much closer and I stepped on two of them, which is when I learned that they present a mild electrical shock to people who step on them.)

(I’m not saying I enjoyed the shock at the moment it happened, but it is a sensation I recommend everyone experience at least once. Just to say you’ve been shocked by a living creature.)

The house we rented, Alcedonia, brought just as much joy to the kids as the beach did.

Alcedonia

…As it should have, with three stories, three decks, plenty of play space, and a couch so vast and comfortable that it made me want to buy a beach house just so I could have that couch in it.

IMG_6970

(I might have considered stealing it. More than once.)

The four kids paired off, giving everyone a partner for play. On our last trip, Noah was too young to be an acceptable playmate for Tessa. But now, at 3 1/2 and 5, they’re the exact same size and were both fooled into thinking they were the same age as well.

Noah kept luring Tessa out to the deck with the temptation of “I have some Cheez-Its I want to share with you…”

IMG_6932

And his charming generosity worked.

IMG_6935

Every time.

IMG_6942

And now we know. 3 1/2 is the age at which a boy realizes that it is not at all a bad thing to be outnumbered by women.

IMG_6991

By the last day, we all knew that we never wanted to leave. This life of no responsibility and pure fun was absolutely meant for us.

IMG_7002

Sure – we guarded shell collections and built a few sandcastles here and there,

IMG_7065

But this trip. This is what the beach is supposed to feel like.

IMG_7066

Everyone equally experiencing pure and fantastic joy.

IMG_7099

Loving the waves,

IMG_7120

Embracing the surf,

IMG_7143

Allowing it to rush over us,

IMG_7144

Oh wait – maybe too over us.

IMG_7145

Yup – definitely too over.

IMG_7146

I should probably never admit that I saw this coming and still chose to take pictures. Should I?

IMG_7149

But after the wave passed and he found himself sitting on the ocean floor, he thought it was kinda cool.

IMG_7151

Kinda.

He just needed some wave-jumping training from Ali and AJ,

IMG_7180

Who not only have the skill perfected,

IMG_7183

But also have the facial expressions to match the activity.

IMG_7192

Both mid-jump, pre-jump,

IMG_7202

and post-jump.

IMG_7205

Although AJ did seem to take the task a bit more seriously than Ali,

IMG_7215

Because athletic pursuits should always be taken seriously.

IMG_7266

And one should always look like they’re smelling something especially unsavory when in the middle of their sport of choice.

IMG_7234

Tessa watched their performance studiously,

IMG_7229

Then did a stellar job of pursing the sport herself.

IMG_7446

But at five, it is impossible to achieve without sticking one’s tongue out.

IMG_7414

As far as possible.

IMG_7427

The entire trip was perfection. From morning to sunset,

Sunset

And every photobomb in between.

IMG_6982

I’m not sure we can wait two years to make it happen again.

2014

Because I’m ready to return. Right now.