She Walks in Beauty

It was my mother’s birthday recently.  She would have been 60 years young.  Each year leading up to her birthday, I have grand plans of honoring Mom’s memory: I will paint a sunset!  I will bake something elaborate!  I will plant a garden!  (Emily actually did this, because she is awesome.)  Each year, I fall dismally short.

This year I had no grand plan, and I engaged in some calculated double-talk to convince myself that Mom would have given my torpor a thumbs-up: wasn’t she always telling me to stress less, laugh more, take another nap, order dessert?  Yes, yes, yes, and yes–so I stepped into April 26th like any other day.  Still, I found myself thinking of her.

Part of my resolve to travel more with Simon stems from my desire to give him what Mom and Dad gave us: a spirit of adventure.  Or maybe our love of food.  Possibly our uncanny ability to pack a suitcase using ziploc bags.  A working knowledge of world capitals?  Truthfully, I think travel at a young age is the gift that keeps on giving–and I reflected on this as we explored our new home on Mom’s birthday.

We met up with dear friends for a lunchtime stroll in Georgetown.  The walkway along the Potomac was swarming with slightly-sunburned college students clad in spandex shorts, their shoulders draped with pastel sweaters, all searching for carbohydrates after competing in a spring regatta.  I know Mom would have been thinking two things: (1) “You should be wearing at least SPF 55,” and (2) “Where’s MY boat?”  Several years ago, she went sailing in Croatia with friends, and I remember her gushing over the salt air, the rhythmic lapping of the waves, the cavernous blueblue sky.  In that moment, I silently pledged to get my son and my sailor husband out on the water before summer’s end.  I also applied more sunscreen to Simon’s ears.

Mom sailing

Mom gives Jason and the Argonauts a run for their money as she mans the helm along the Dalmation coast.

By the end of the day, we were too tired to cook Eggplant Rollatini (a Cindy Brown favorite) and it was too late to take Simon to a restaurant–so we picked up some grocery store sushi and fresh cannolis.  (Parenthood seems to lower the bar for fine dining.)  We were waiting in line to check out when Simon began to serenade the other shoppers with his seagull screech, so I left Kenny in charge of the spicy tuna rolls and took our baby bird outside to serenade the pigeons.

Simon getting excited about our sashimi sampler.

Simon getting excited about our sashimi sampler.

Within minutes, Simon had befriended an elderly woman who remarked on his “lovely singing voice”.  She looked at me knowingly and reminded me to enjoy these early years (if I had a nickel…), and before she walked off she asked if she could bless him.  Momentarily taken aback, I said of course, and thanked her, and watched as she held her gold cross pendant up to Simon’s forehead and whispered a brief prayer.  She told us to have a splendid evening, and slowly pushed her shopping cart toward her car.  A sticker on the bumper appropriately read: “Teach Music.”

Our adventures that day brought us to the Potomac, but they also brought us to the happenstance of grace in a grocery store parking lot.  Once again, I thought of Mom, and wished her happy birthday, and thanked her for always bringing beauty into my days.

“She walks in beauty, like the night
   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes.”
                                        -Lord Byron
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