Monday, January 02, 2006

Holding on Is Futile

I've been thinking about how to catch up here, and I've come to the conclusion that I probably won't be able to do so. Still, there's so much I want to much I want to capture, I guess.

My son says funny things a lot of the time, sometimes when we're in the car on the way to the grocery store, sometimes at bedtime, and I sometimes remember these things and tell members of my family, or blog them here. The other night when I told my brother about something the kiddo had said, he told me, "You should get a notebook and just keep it around so you can write these things down." Don't think the thought hasn't occurred to me. But who can really write everything down when there are noses and bums to wipe, meals to prepare, tears to dry, projects to do, grownup work to be done, etc.? You moms know what I'm talking about.

When I was childless and working in a job that I hated, I carried Post-It notes around with me so I could jot down all my profound thoughts. I accumulated a lot of fluttering yellow scraps of paper that all stuck to each other, and once in a while I wrote a poem. It was okay. When my son was born, I tried to carry a camera everywhere with me so I could document everything. Eventually I found that I was living through the camera instead of fully being in each experience. Do you know what I mean? Why do I want to capture everything, instead of just living it?

In the week before Christmas, I took my son to the Hotel del Coronado so we could see the gigantic Christmas tree in the lobby. We got a late start, as happens sometimes with us, and arrived on the island around 3:00 or so. Luckily we found an excellent parking spot in front of someone's house (free!), and it was a short walk to the hotel. On the way, we passed a Wendy's and I had the foresight to drag the kiddo inside although he said he wasn't hungry. I wasn't going to take chances on the kiddo's mood staying pleasant without the assistance of greasy fries, er, sustenance.

While we chomped on our fries and chicken strips, the kiddo noticed a very humble Christmas tree inside the restaurant. "Is that the tree you wanted me to see?" he asked. I told him it wasn't, but that it was a good example of how every Christmas tree is different. (Earlier we'd been discussing the difference between our own artificial tree and his dad's gigantic cut tree.) We wiped our hands, threw away our trash, and proceeded to the hotel.

The fog and mist were coming in and the sky was gray, but inside the beautiful lobby the tree glowed with hundreds of lights and sparkled with hundreds of sea-themed ornaments and shells. It was lovely. Several people had brought their cameras with them to photograph their children in front of the tree, presumably for Christmas cards. I had a disposable camera in my purse, which had one exposure left on it. My son dutifully stood in front of the tree (after we'd circled it and he'd asked if he could touch every single ornament -- I'd let him despite my better judgement) and began striking a series of oddball poses. "Just please stand still and smile nicely for the picture, honey," I begged. "I'll even give you five marbles for your marble (reward) jar." I waited, and when he finally smiled and stood still, I snapped the photo. I haven't had the film developed yet, so we shall see what we got.

We circled the tree again and the kiddo once more touched ornaments, ever so gently, as I'd instructed him. The tree reached the ceiling; it was grand, all right. Then we wandered around the lobby to see what else we could see. If you've never been to the Hotel del Coronado, you'll just have to imagine the polished wooden ceilings in the lobby, the overstuffed loveseats positioned next to decorated antique fireplaces, the flowers and whitewashed gazebo just outside the door, the feeling of having stepped back in time. I pointed out to the kiddo one of the lavishly decorated mantels, full of evergreen boughs and a mermaid figure. My son climbed onto a squishy loveseat and looked at the ceiling as I sank into an armchair across from him. "Come sit with me on this big sofa," he said. I did, and the two of us lay back on the soft cushions, and looked at the dark, crisscrossed wood of the ceiling. I felt privileged to have been invited by him.

No sooner had I settled than the kiddo was up and at 'em again, wanting to see what else was around. We walked outside and found our way to the back of the hotel, where normally there's a huge lawn just before the broad expanse of beach. Instead of a lawn, however, we found that the hotel had set up an ice skating rink. Amazing. An ice rink on the beach. Plenty of skaters happily circled the ice while hotel employees skated nearby with long-handled squeegees to move the ever-melting top layer of ice off the surface. The water would later be collected in portable tanks and drained on the thin strip of lawn that still showed next to the rink. Several skaters were soaked from the waist down, having fallen in the growing puddle, but that didn't stop them. They smiled and laughed as they skated and bumped into the low wall surrounding the rink. Clearly we Southern Californians need to brush up on our ice skating skills, but we do know how to have fun.

As we watched, I remembered my childhood home in Illinois. My family lived near a large park, and in the wintertime the city would flood one area of the park so it would freeze into an ice rink. My mother took us to a secondhand store once to buy ice skates for us; we kids spent time on the ice, trying to avoid the bumps and twigs that stuck out of the surface. We fell a lot, but we had fun. At the Hotel del Coronado, I realized that my son had never seen an ice skating rink prior to that day, so I promised him I'd teach him to ice skate at a local indoor rink. He seemed happy about that. The kiddo has never seen snow, to my knowledge, so we'll have to rectify that, too.

After watching the skaters for a while, we walked around the perimeter of the rink, and my son got to touch some ice that had formed on one of the water pipes that fed the rink. To him, that was just as thrilling as anything else he'd seen or touched that day, and I enjoyed the fact that he's still easy to please at times.

I still wished I'd brought my digital camera, and I didn't write down a single thing my son said (although he said plenty), but after a while I started to let go of the notion of capturing everything. It was just me and my boy, watching the skaters at dusk, sneaking into the lobby for another peek at the tree, touring the surrounding neighborhood and pointing out Christmas lights on houses, and driving across the fogged-in bridge, back to our little corner of the world. And that was good enough for me.