While teaching my painting class this past Monday a toddler’s distress made its way up the stairs and into the painting room at our local art center. My class consisted of mothers and grandmothers so this cry alerted our maternal instincts. One of the class members blurted out “I just want to help that child” and we all chimed in with the same want and desire. The toddler was absolutely fine and just having a moment. That is the thing about toddlers. Moments. Moments that seem like hours in the heat of the experience but in actuality, not. I had started the following essay after our summer vacation a number of weeks ago. Hearing the willful cry of the unknown toddler the other day I decided to finish it.
Breakfast out on a Sunday morning. Late August on Cape Cod. Sesuit Harbor. Three adults and one toddler. Belle, our two year old granddaughter, had the advantage. While my husband waited in line to place the food order, our daughter and I walked down to the water’s edge with Belle to watch the comings and goings of the boats in the harbor. Enroute to the water we crossed a gravel parking lot. Creosote stained wooden railroad ties gave order to the open space. Weary parents with morning hair hidden under their Boston Red Sox baseball caps were holding and walking with their very young children. “The toddler parking lot,” my daughter whispered. We both respectfully acknowledged the truth in her simple sentence with a knowing giggle.
Sand between our toes and young families all around us as we waited. We waved to a black lab sporting a lifejacket on a small motor boat. Blew kisses to boats leaving the harbor for a beautiful day on the Atlantic Ocean. Met a puppy and numerous other family dogs. Tee shirts in an array of colors with the official Black Dog symbol. Martha’s Vineyard 1971. A very popular apparel item for this Cape Coddy group.
The sky was cobalt blue with not a single cloud overhead but the toddler storms were a brewin’.’ Picnic tables with heavy plastic highchairs occupied by a transient group of toddlers. With so much happening and exploration to be had, who had time to sit and eat? Breakfast had become an aerobic event.
Sesuit is a working harbor. Boats of varying sizes and expense are stored and transported back and forth to the harbor with a fair frequency. Interesting happenings were all around us so pancakes were a bit of a snooze for our newly minted two year old. My daughter and I had tag teamed walking Belle. In fact all three of us had walked the swath. We subbed in and out like a professional sports team. We were a well oiled toddler walking machine. We had all visited the retired buoys of “great interest” in faded primary colors that the restaurant had used for decoration. Several times.
I had given up on my scrambled eggs as my priority shifted to wanting my daughter to be able to eat her breakfast in more than three quick bites. Plus a walk and talk with Belle is always a preference for me. I decided we would lap the area in as broad a route as possible. Yes, we would stroll by all of our favorite vistas as we navigated our path through the rows of picnic tables while acknowledging Belle’s contemporaries in varying degrees of happiness.
We walked and then walked some more as we simply enjoyed the adventure. We became official members of the oil and gravel parking lot. Employing a railroad tie as the perfect balance beam. We dedicated a fair amount of time to practicing our beam technique. As we continued on our way a boat was being removed from storage to be returned to the water. A giant fork lift spun quite quickly as it swiftly moved to the water and headed in our direction. What was initially fascinating to Belle soon felt threatening. Her arms reached for me and her face grew concerned. Not quite panicked but heading in that direction. I swooped her up before the alarm could grow and knew we were far from harm but she is perceptive. We enjoyed watching the lift operator smoothly complete the task he had obviously done hundreds of times.
We returned to the table and rejoined our family. My daughter and husband were happily chatting. My eggs were still where I had left them. While packing up to return to the house my daughter and I recounted the “toddler breakfast moments” we had just experienced. I told Emily that time is ever so fleeting and while the intense moments seem like a lifetime they are in actuality brief. As she felt badly that my breakfast was not finished I told her that I will never remember the unfinished meals, but I will always hold in my heart the feeling of Belle’s small hand holding mine.