I'm fully aware that I am not in the greatest of shape. There are some spare pounds I've managed to locate over the years, pounds I'd rather see get lost. I get to the gym once a week lately, which isn't enough to do much of anything. However, that has little to do with the ache in my knee tonight. Or at least it is not the ONLY reason my knee aches tonight.
We had a great day. We left the house around Meg's nap time. Drove two hours south to the tip of New Jersey - stopping only when we reached our destination. The lighthouse.
Last year, when Megan arrived, we started searching out ways to spend some one on one quality time with Logan. Bruce took him to a lighthouse. He loved it. So Bruce took him again. And then they went to another. And now, Logan is a lighthouse junky -- just like his dad. When he had the chance to offer a suggestion of how we'd spend his father's vacation day the only thing he came up with a trip to his first lighthouse. So we offered another suggestion - a trip to a different one. He loved it.
Of course this time his sister and I were invited. Anyone with an active toddler knows, you don't easily watch a big brother begin his ascent of a staircase without tagging along. No, there is no entertaining her by letting her loiter around the base of the great behemouth. She won't be content hobbling around in her winter coat fighting to keep her arms down even though the fluff the jacket makes the task impossible. Up the lighthouse she must go.
Megan, however, has not quite mastered the staircase. Yes, she can climb stairs. She crawls up them. Hands on a step as her knees scramble up another. Over and over. It's a slow, deliberate process. Not one conducive to 200 winding steps. Surely the preschooler could do it. Yet if he got half-way up and gave up, well let's be honest, carrying 23 pounds up the lighthouse was the more attractive option. So I did.
Bruce stayed behind Logan moving section by section at a time. They'd stop at each turn out and admire all they saw out the window. (I could hear the three-year voice of my child echo though the brick cylinder. "Wow, look at this view!") I started out faster than I meant to. I stopped a few times, but I found it easier to push upward and onward. When we got out at the top on the exterior walkway, I found myself thinking, "Well that wasn't so bad."
And it hadn't been really. It had been a work-out but it had been good. Megan wandered around the caged in balcony giggling and posing for pictures. Logan and Daddy appeared. They were going to take their time again. I started thinking about how the hell I was going to get down.
Very briefly I entertained the notion of switching places. Heck, the kid and walked all the way up on his own. That HAD to be the better deal! But down is different. Down is always different. Instead I started out before the boys were ready. We'd go slow. Except we got caught with a bunch of other walkers that weren't going to move as slowly. I toyed pausing at a turn-out to let them pass, but Megan was getting wiggely. She wanted down. My only choice was to move as quickly as I could before she wiggled herself free.
And then I remembered my years as a tennis player. My years that once sent me to the orthopedic and left me playing in a neophene knee-brace popping Ibruprophen. My left knee and I don't always get along. I remembered, about half-way down, that going down (hills or stairs), and even more so, going down with added weight, was more apt to set off my knee than most anything else.
We eased our way out of the lighthouse. The pain stopped. We played on the grass outside while we waited for them to emerge. Our guys were taking their time. Megan heard Logan before I did. She started to laugh and run back to the entry steps. I stopped her just as we saw them coming out - Dad was carrying the kid. I grinned. I made the right choice.
But then we started walking back to the car. The little emperor wanted to go on the beach. The princess didn't want to budge. I picked her up to carry her and it hit me. Or more accurately, it hit my knee. Crap.
As long as I wasn't doing stairs - or at least leading with my left down the step - and I wasn't carrying a child, I was fine. It wasn't debilitating bad. It was just annoying. We rode home and my leg started to calm. Sure, it still aches if I do the wrong thing, but it's not like it was. More importantly, it's not like the time I decided to take up jogging in college. Let's just say, I once worked an Open House on campus as a student volunteer while on crutches.
We also made the mistake of not packing lunch. It was 2pm when we left the Cape. We stopped at the first reststop we found. Our only choice was a Roy Rogers and the older woman that waited on us had as many teeth as Meg. (For those not keeping score of the little one's mouth, she's still hanging at 2 teeth. Two well-brushed, little lower center teeth.) Yet, despite the knee and despite the lunch experience, we had a tremendously wonderful time.
When I had children, I set a few fairly big goals for Bruce and I as parents. Our children would be loved unconditionally. They would be encouraged to pursue their interests and supported as they strove for their dreams. More importantly though, I wanted to make sure we peppered their childhood with little moments they'd cherish and remember always. At the time I had thought of things like holiday rituals and grand moments. Now that we're pretty much into the thick of it, I realize that it is not those things - or at least *just* those things. It is the little things.
At age 1 and 3, I'm not sure either child will remember the details of today. At least not without the roll worth of film I shot. They may not remember my knee or the toothless lady. They likely didn't even notice. They may not remember being carried down the stairs or even running after the seagulls. They will, however, remember that we took time as a family to just be. We took time to go to the places that weren't anything overly spectacular or amazing or expensive. We went for walks in parks. We dug our toes in the sand near our home. We walked up some stairs. We just enjoyed on another.
As I sit and ramble on about our day, it occurs to me that this very memory is the best gift we can give them, isn't it.