The other night, as my daughter and I watched the sky deepening toward sunset, I said to her, “Look at the light! I call this the golden hour.”
She laughed and said, “I think everyone calls it that, Mommy.”
“Oh,” said I. “I thought it was a Cape Cod thing.”
“Nope.” She smiled fondly at me.
We sipped our cocktails and resumed reading.
We had such a magical time together, floating on rafts at a kettle pond, cooking for each other, attempting to back down a dirt road when we went a bit too far in house ogling (I couldn’t do it, and we had to change places so she could get us out). We laughed a lot, mostly at each other and ourselves.
My kids were blessed with a prescient grandfather—my dad, who bought this house in the 1970s, when real estate was cheap up here, and a half-finished, rather ordinary house on the Cape was affordable for a middle-class family. All their lives, we’ve come here. We know now that the house is extraordinary, because it’s ours, keeper of our best memories.
We do the same things year after year—Higgins and Gull Ponds, Nauset Light Beach, sunsets on the bay side. We ride bikes and eat seafood and hang our perpetually damp towels on the line. We go to the strange and charming little shops—Botanica, Buddha Bob’s, Vintage in Vogue. We read, sometimes a book a day.
On Friday, Dearest Son came up to join us for a couple days. I made the kids dinner— “Are we having eggs?” Dearest asked, and we laughed so much, since my cooking is a rare thing. (They were then dazzled when I made something rather delicious and interesting.) We watched a movie. Played with Princess’s cat and scolded her for attacking the screens.
Yesterday, we went to the bay side, to the beach where someday my ashes will be spread. Into the cold, clear water we went, shrieking a little (except for Dearest, who is dignified and brave). The Princess plotted her survival should a shark attack us, and I reassured them both that I would offer myself up so that they would live. After we were sufficiently cooled, we went back to shore and resumed reading.
A while later, the Princess wanted to go back in. I did not, being a one-and-done type when it comes to the beach. So Dearest went with her, and I sat in my little rusting beach chair and watched my babies, now 24 and 21, playing in the water with each other as they have all their lives. Their voices floated across the air to me. I could see my son towing my daughter, saw them splash each other, heard his deep voice as he made her laugh.
There are not a lot of moments when life is perfect. These times are fraught with violence, distress, fear, anger, as time too often is. I’m not the most confident person in the world, and I battle anxiety about being good enough, doing enough good. I worry about our planet, our society, my children’s health, my husband’s safety.
But for this moment, watching my grown children play in the water, best friends still after all these years, life was perfect, and I was smart enough to know it. I drank in that golden hour and appreciated my greatest gifts in life: Flannery and Declan, my beloveds, my darlings, my good, good kids.