This girl right here, wearing her birthday present, had one wish for her 14th anniversary on this planet- to go back to that little pebble rock beach cove that we found by accident 5-6 yrs ago when we were here last, and get her feet into the ocean there before she turned 14...
Only I had no idea which of the many little beaches and coves it was that we happened upon and explored on that trip. So we got into town last night around 6, with no hotel reservations, and no energy left, and some bad cases of bus butt from driving all day, sore legs from hiking in the sequoia national forest earlier in the day, and no idea where to start looking. We had endured nose bleeds, altitude wooziness, and dehydration all in a day. Plus over the course of this trip, a stepping in vomit incident at a natural public pool which induced a day delay due to subsequent illness, an allergic throat swelling incident, and a couple of check engine lights and stops to local auto supplies stores, and I can now add to me resume a light mechanical tune up while traveling. Suffice it to say that in six days on the road, I've thought about just giving up and going home at least twice, each day... :/
Well, anyway, we get into town, Monterey Bay Area, last night after a full day on the road, six days total actually, and it's cold and windy and the clouds are hanging heavy on the mountain tops, and we just start driving. We end up at point lobos preserve, because we knew we visited there before, we get into the gates, and start exploring beaches. We see coves, and rocks, and waves splashing. We see jellyfish, and sea lions, and gorgeous landscapes. We walk winding paths, we climb stairs, we drive from one end of the park to the other, walking out to each cove. None of them are the right one. There's one cove that seems like it could be it, but the big mermaid rock isn't there any more and the stairs don't seem in the right place. Maybe if we could just walk down there... Only it's roped off bc the staircase collapsed at the bottom, and the beach looks like sand, not pebbles. But maybe it washed up in five yrs time, or maybe that tiny little rock is the tip of her old mermaid rock, or maybe, maybe, maybe... Maybe this isn't the right place. And it's getting dark. And the park closes half an hour after sunset. And even though it's way too cloudy to see the sun has set, it's getting dark fast, and we are getting a little worried about what else may come out at night to eat, having already seen several deer grazing within a few yards of us, and clearly they were not at all afraid of us, which is saying something about the wildlife in the park- when the prey is unafraid of people that close, certainly predators won't be either... :/
So we resign. She sighs and feigns nonchalance, and agrees to just dip a toe in at that other little place we saw with the tide pools. Only we don't know if we have time to get back around the park to find it again before they lock the gates. So we start driving toward the exit, hoping not to be stopped from looping back in again. And I'm feeling like I've failed. She only wanted this one thing. This tiny little impossible thing that I had nothing but faith to believe that I could even begin to pull it off; to give this little child of mine, who is so quickly growing into a young woman now, this one last wish of hers- this one last vestige of childhood fantasy to cling to in her memories. Memories of her childhood. Memories of her hope, her faith, her belief in magic and mermaids. Memories in the end that I hope will hold tight in her heart, the love her mother has for her, and the lengths I will go to for her.
One day, I hoped that she would remember all that we overcame to make this one last childhood wish come true. Because 14 feels like the beginning of a new phase. She's started glancing at boys, and occasionally puts on a little mascara and lip gloss, and cares more about her clothes being cute and fashionable. This child of mine who has, more than anyone I've ever known, clung hard and long to the childhood innocence that she has seemed wise beyond her years to cherish and not squander on silliness and a rush for more grown up things. But I've seen stirrings of her moving on past these childish things. She has held on long enough, and I've sensed that she is ready to let it go and embrace what's next. Oh this process... Of watching your child ready, steady, and prepare themselves to let go.
First from your own body, then from your bosom as they wean and start taking in the world unfiltered by you. We start as a carrier of these creatures within us, and it feels so much like they are ours. Like they belong to us. They are a part of us. And part of watching these beautiful beings grow, means us letting go. It's like taking pieces of your heart and tethering them outside of yourself, and feeling these tugs as they float and drift and wander and explore the world, farther and farther away from the safety of you. And you wish you could tuck them back inside your arms, or inside your heart at times, and keep them safe and close and hold them there forever. But part of loving them, is letting them grow.
I'm just remembering- my mom had an embroidered wall hanging of little deer in a flowery little forest on the hallway wall when we were kids. It said: if you love something, you have to let it go, if it comes back it's yours- or something like that. But I think when you truly love something, you can never really let it go. It is a part of you, in some form, and it forever will be. But when you truly love anything, you have to give it room to grow. To be. To become. You nourish it, feed it, water it, and give it all the best that you can, and you cherish it and watch it grow, marveling at this incredible thing you see unfolding and blossoming in your life. What a gift! What an incredible honor. To be on this journey, with these beautiful creatures, as we, the mothers, the protectors and the givers and the lovers of these things, get to witness first hand, the incredible unfolding of a life! We are truly blessed by our children aren't we? No wonder we wish to spoil them, and please them, and serve them, and adore them. No gift we could ever give could be as incredible as the gift of being their mothers.
So as we are driving out of the park, I am glancing down at the park map, attempting to not run off the narrow curvy road, and just not wanting it to end up this way. The whole trip is feeling like a let down, like a waste, like a disappointing reality that will discolor her lenses of looking into adulthood with the icky cynicism of so many people who have hardened to life's hard knocks, given up on their dreams and fantasies and believing in anything in general, for fear of the let down. I'm asking myself- is this it? Is this what we were meant to learn on this trip? This wake up call to 'the real world'? This ugly truth that we don't always get what we wish for, and maybe there isn't any real magic left in the world?
No. No, I don't want this to be her welcome to pre-adulthood experience. Life's a let down kid, get used to it? No. No nononononono NO!
I look down at the map and heave a heavy sigh, and then I see it. I teeny tiny little inlet, and the teeny tiny little letters- Hidden Beach... Could this be it? It sounds like a place I would have been drawn to in the past. It sounds like something I would have sought out before... So i ask the girls- do you want to turn around and go see if this one is it?- they say no, not really....
It's late, it's getting dark, we are all tired, and the 'reality' that we have no idea where we are staying for the night is becoming increasingly 'real' by the second. We see the park ranger parked at a turn around, obviously to keep anyone from going any further into the park at this late hour, and it hits me- I whip the car around right behind him, hoping he doesn't try to stop us, but knowing that he will have to knock me down or taser me at this point, to stop me from going back to just see! This is it- this is the final hours of her thirteenth year, and dammit if I will be this close to the possible place and not go see! So we go, we peer into the bushes and look for trail posts. There's a small wooden post hidden behind some bushes. We stop. There are no words. I get out and walk closer- it says, barely visible- hidden beach.
We get out, reserving ourselves to avoid the disappointment which we honestly, at this point, are actually expecting. We walk down the trail, come around some bushes, and right there, to the right, is the little staircase, just as it should be, not vaguely familiar like all the others, but really familiar! We peek over the ledge- and THERE IT IS!!! The Mermaid Rock! THIS IS IT!! THIS IS THE ONE!!! The RIGHT one. We did it! We found it! We found the one place she wanted to be for her birthday, for the one thing she wanted to do before she left behind the number thirteen. We drove 13 hundred miles to get here. 13 times I considered giving up and going home. And 13 years with this special girl, have proven all along the way, and especially at this moment, the 13th hour, that magic is real. That hope has power. That belief is everything. Belief, and never giving up...
So on this 14th anniversary of her very first birth day, my wish for my daughter, is one for all the happiness and love and joy and wonder and adventure and fullness of life. I wish for her to see the beauty that is all around, and to feel the love that has her tethered to all the people here who love and cherish her, and to feel safe and secure in those roots, as she spreads her own wings and prepares to fly out into this big bright world and make a world and a life of her own.
Thank you my girl, for this journey we have been on together these past 14yrs, it has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. 💗