By Erin Rounds
We had just arrived at my mother’s house in the hills of Vermont, when the sliding door to her mudroom flew open, and out bounded my red-headed niece, Rori, in her bathing suit.
“We’re going to the pond,” she announced gleefully, “are you coming?”
Both of my children’s excited faces turned to me for an answer and then fell in disappointment when I told them we needed Mother’s Day pictures in their nice clothes and to eat chicken dinner first. Reluctantly they fake-smiled for family shots out on the fading wooden deck and sat together at the kiddy table to eat. Mashed potatoes were skipped, but squirts of ketchup were plentiful. They could hear the ticking of the clock on Grammy’s wall. Rori pretended not to shiver as she sat in her bathing suit.
Finally, the adults were ready to chaperone a trip down to the pond. It was early May, so we hadn’t brought our bathing suits. Erli quickly slipped into some extra play clothes, and Will happily stripped down into his blue boxer briefs. Off they tumbled, down the grassy hill and into the water and mud-filled world they loved so much.
Spring in Vermont means frogs and tadpoles in ponds, and boy was my mom’s full of them! Tiny tadpoles swam everywhere. The swift, earthy blobs wiggled their way to the surface, bobbing their heads above the bright green algae, their pulsing mouths seeming to blow me kisses. Then, quickly, their spotted bodies would dive back down into the murky depths, their long toddler tails waving behind them.
They soon became moving targets for everyone to catch. Will thrust his white butterfly net at a swarm of tadpoles as they basked in the afternoon sun. They darted away in all directions. Will examined his catch carefully, but all his net yielded was a clump of gooey, mucky mud.
He enviously looked on as his sister successfully scooped up a tadpole with her bare hands. She walked over to him slowly, the little wriggling body held in her cupped palms. He peered down at her outstretched catch, and a new determination crept across his face.
Will splashed over to the pile of sand toys and selected a blue plastic OxyClean scoop as his next tool. Stealthily he stalked a lone tadpole, herding it away from its group. Then he swiftly swooped the scoop upward and cheered excitedly, “ I caught one! I caught one!”
I furiously snapped pictures with my phone as the sunshine illuminated the childhood happiness of a Sunday afternoon that would soon fade and mix with the hundreds of days that is motherhood caring for two young people. I am a bit of a photo maniac. With family in the Caribbean to keep up to date and my own desire to capture every small moment, I have multitudes of online albums and hardcopy scrapbooks. I know I’m not the only mom who holds on this way.
The symbolism of the day was not lost to me. It was Mother’s Day in the pond my mother adores. With my parents’ divorce a number of years ago, it was unclear how long we would be able to still enjoy our childhood home that overlooked the pond. My mom mourned the summer days when she would no longer go for a dip, but fate has let us all enjoy days like this a little longer. There we were: all four small grandchildren squealing with delight, catching baby frogs-their legs not yet developed, still staying close to home, simple lives diving and surfacing, unaware of the impending dangers of swooping birds or competitive siblings.
Last year Will would barely go near the water, but now at three he is more daring and adventurous. I was impressed with his bravado as he shooed away crayfish and waded up past his chest. Erli would be heading to kindergarten in the fall. She got herself stuck trying to step into the fuschia fish baby float, the small leg holes in the plastic strangling her tall muscular trunk. Grammy used to pull her around the pond in it before she could even walk. Now she swims underwater, catches critters barehanded, and builds spas for crayfish with sand and rocks.
I blinked back a tear. How often are we fortunate enough to realize when we’re in a stop and enjoy it- they’re growing up too fast moment? That moment when your heart aches a little because in your mind’s eye they’re headed to college and down the aisle and you know exactly how it will feel. I was in it. It was sappy and cliché and I didn’t care. It’s a big wide world out there, and I want them to enjoy the pond while they have it, while they develop their legs. There’s plenty of time and many pictures to take before they go hopping off to explore. And once they do, I can only hope they will return to their pond one day and fill it with clusters of their own green blobby eggs. Beside me in her beach chair, my mom watched the adventure unfold, and I wondered if she was having a moment of her own.