When my kids were little, I used to take them camping whenever I could. Sometimes my husband would be able to come with us, and sometimes I'd bring the kids up to my parents' camp. In August, I'd spend a week camping at Huge Lake with Monking Friend after our husbands had run out of vacation time. Monking Friend and I have eight children between us, all pretty close in age.
Each year, the eight kids would get obsessed with some kind of activity. One year it was diving, one year kite flying. Another year, they spend hours and hours playing cards. One year, her kids had fishing poles, and the kids spent all kinds of time fishing. Near the end of the week, her twin boys, LookingForward and DryHumor, asked me to get up at dawn one morning and take them fishing at the pier.
I love early summer mornings. We crept out of our tents while it was still dark. With-a-Why was just a toddler, and I left him curled up sleeping next to his sister, but my middle two kids stumbled out of the tent sleepily. LookingForward was wide awake, his fishing pole in his hand.
The wide concrete pier at the beach was often crowded in the evening with people looking at the famous sunset over Huge Lake, but at dawn it was empty of humans and covered with seagulls. The sun was rising slowly, but both the sky and water were such a misty blue that you could not see where the water ended and the sky began. The boys settled on a spot near on the pier and sat down close together, the four of them huddled together as if for warmth, their legs dangling above the water.
While they fished, I wrote in my journal and read part of a book. As the sun rose higher, the mist began to burn off and the grey blue sky turned blue. I walked to the end of the long pier, hundreds of yards, and I noticed that as I walked the seagulls would rise up and then settle back down as soon as I passed. I tried running from one end of the pier to the other, and it was the coolest thing – as I ran, seagulls would rise all around me, their white and grey wings scraping the morning sky, and then drop back down after I passed through.
I checked on the boys, who were still huddled in the same spot, although they had stripped off their sweatshirts and eaten some of their donuts. They were talking lazily, in hushed tones, all of them staring into the water, almost as if the lake had mesmerized them.
An old woman, the first person we’d seen that day, came walking down the pier. She was dressed in pink and khaki, with a white cardigan sweater wound tightly around her middle. Her white hair was curly. She stopped to watch the boys, who were all oblivious to her presence. When she came near where I sat cross-legged, reading my book, I smiled and said hello.
"Are they your kids?"
"Yeah. Well, sort of. I mean, two of them are."
She paused, as if about to tell me something important. "I'm so delighted to see them," she said. "I've been wondering if kids still did that – if kids ever went fishing off this pier. I was beginning to think they didn't."
She turned again to look at the boys, and I could see that she was remembering those lazy summer mornings of childhood spent with a fishing pole and a couple of buddies. She continued down the pier, seagulls rising and falling as she went.