Remember when you were eight years-old?
I am keenly aware of the freedom that is being “eight”, as I watch my daughter, Ellie.
I am sitting in a hammock, listening to her drum on her belly while she is sitting on her bed in our jungle cabin. I am outside in a hammock, strapped nice and high so that I get a thrilling swing over the porch. I can see her through the window: her legs bicycling in the air and she is laughing as she makes different sounds on her body with her hands.
I feel, as often parents do, a series of flash-back moments, when I observe my children doing the things that I did when I was little. I remember the same drumming on my stomach. I remember being on vacation and feeling the breeze from the ocean blow the curtains though my bedroom window; the warm air both serene and exciting. I remember feeling real and separate – my own whole person.
I can see from the look in her eyes, she is feeling alive and present.
My family has been with me now for close to two weeks in our adventure in Belize. After a month’s separation, we are back into a comfortable routine with one another that was strained at the start by the intensity of travel, and our desire to hug and hold one another to remember how much we love each other.
Having them here has been lesson in letting go and holding on.
I want Ellie and Ava both to love Belize. I see their affection for the country unfolding in ways I had not expected.
I had dived and snorkeled on the reef and thought, “The girls will LOVE this. They will want to jump right in and try it to see all of the cool and exciting undersea life. It is a sure thing!”
They approached the water so differently than I expected. Ellie was terrified, Ava was a fish. Ellie liked the boat rides, the palm trees and the islands. Ava skirted in the water, jumping in with the turtles and rays. Ellie drew pictures and collected hermit crabs. Ava laid back like a starfish and floated.
I hoped they would jump into eat everything. They have tried everything with some squinched faces and with some pleasant surprises. Mashed plantain served in garlic coconut soup was a hit. Shrimp ceviche, (one of my hands-down faves) was a definitive “NO” for the girls, “Too shrimpy! Too Sour!” they said.
Their manners have been impeccable. Right now as I swing, Ava is helping the proprietor, Jungle Jean, pick flowers and walk her dogs. I asked Jean if she needed me to get her, Jean replied, “I love having my little Ava.”
Seeing their adventure and discoveries, from fluffy beds and cool swimming pools, to making new friends who share their love of jump-roping, hearing howler monkeys at night, and eating exotic fruits, is awe-inspiring.
Ellie hasn’t stopped jumping and squealing. Ava is is below, walking with a bunch of hibiscus to be set for dinner service in one hand, and a dog bowl in the other. She has been tasked by Jean to help her feed the hotel’s dogs.