Before she ever stepped foot on the sands of Emerald Isle, NC, my four-year-old daughter had heard tales of my childhoods spent on this coastline. Before walking the shore, she knew about the pool at the base of the pier where we'd sneak in for a clandestine swim to cool our toasty feet, and about the Dairy Queen across the two-lane road where we'd eat chocolate dipped cones on any afternoon we wanted to.
Before she ever walked this path, she had a memory of this glorious place, passed down from me.
My son, now 2.5, will have his own first memories of my childhood happy place intertwined with the hand-me-down ones from me and from his sister. "Didn't this pier used to be longer, before the hurricane?" she asks me. And she's right. It was Hurricane Irene -- in 2011, two years before her birth. In that same hand-me-down way, she remembers the grand adventures we'd have exploring the planked walkways over the swamps of the bayside. The elevator tag I spent hours playing with my cousins on soggy afternoons, the rain water puddled up on the dingy grey outdoor carpet in the condo hallways. The tennis lessons given by our family patriarch and tennis legend, my dad. "Dziadzio is a really good tennis teacher," she explains to her brother, well before either had ever picked up a racket in his presence.
Some memories are brand new to all of us. The dining room window seat forming a boat just the right size for two children who can't seem to be confined to just a chair while eating lunch.. The way bubbles blown on the screen porch during a lively storm swirl around the room as if having their own private dance party. And swimming in the rain. The never-ending and ever-enthusiastic cries of "are you ready?" "are you ready?" before bounding in to the pool with great zeal, over and over again, immune to the cold while the adults tremble visibly in the tepid water, arms open and grins giant, waiting to receive their slick, athletic bodies.
This place is like another sister to me. One that I wait all year to visit with, and one with whom the memories are still forming. Layers upon layers. One with whom many of my happiest childhood memories were built, and who I yearn for my children to know just as intimately as I do.
Bringing another generation into the fold adds a richness and depth I hadn't considered before. And on top of that, there's the gift of brand new experiences with both sisters -- metaphorical and real. Now the length of stories we tell each other can string even further.
And the fishing. The fishing is a new one for us -- the last fisherman in our family was my maternal grandfather, who was said to have the patience of a saint while sitting by the water, waiting for the fish to bite. Perhaps that memory has somehow trickled its way invisibly through my mom and me to the children, who are quite taken with their beloved uncle and his fishing game. At two and four, they aren't much for fishing themselves just yet, or -- if we're being honest -- even for watching the fishing. But a generation from now, will they tell their own children the tales of cold, rainy summer days fishing with their uncle, when they ran on the beach in oversized hoodies, soggy hair plastered to their foreheads, laughing and digging and chasing and falling down and getting up again and running some more and loving each other so well, while the adults were doing something less important? A mama sure can dream.