Camp Mummy has apparently been too adventurous and engrossing to leave any time to write about it. I don’t even know what week of summer it is except it’s the week the little kids are at summer camp, which means I can actually sit down at my desk and answer email, pay bills and clean up a few of the piles that have accumulated during our days of fun.

A couple of weeks ago, we made it to the beach twice. Once on a Tuesday when it was slated to be 96F in town and later in the week to visit Adam’s dad for the July 4th weekend.

Florence Day Trip

Florence Oregon coastWe headed out for a day trip to the beach, setting off before lunch time. We’d just started reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at bedtime, so I downloaded the audio book from the library onto my phone and continued the saga. It kept us quiet and entertained on the hour and a half drive.

(Note: people in Eugene always say it’s only an hour to the coast. But it’s not. It’s an hour twenty to Florence, and then another good 10 minutes to an actual beach.)

We arrived, found a sheltered spot not quite on the ocean and set up camp. I had the foresight to bring a pop up play tent and the kids helped me gather driftwood and rocks to stake it down. I slathered them with sunblock and sent them off to play while I withdrew into the camo-tent and ate lunch. Their bellies directed them to join me shortly.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch: bagels and cream cheese for me and Duncan, noodles and peas for Berry, followed by a dessert of fresh cherries. And then they were off again.

I did a bit of knitting while they played at the water’s edge, watching them dig and run and laugh together. After a while, I joined them, with a bucket of shells my Mum had collected along the Florida coast years ago. We’ve been slowly returning them to the ocean over the last 3 years, but the final container has been sitting on our front porch, seemingly forgotten for quite a long time.

So I began to empty it, one shell at a time, flung into the water as far as I could. Each one a remembrance, a goodbye, a prayer, a wish, a kiss on the air.

We used to walk along the beach together, Mum and I. First in Barbados. Then South Florida. I was the one who brought her back to the ocean she so loved. It wasn’t the same as the Caribbean Sea, of course. South Florida’s East Coast Atlantic was not the pristine, tranquil, aquamarine waters for the Bajan West Coast. It was loud and rough and wild. But it was still the ocean, the beach, the horizon bringing freedom and expansion to your eyes and heart. There’s something about looking off into an unknowable distance — you open up in a way you simply can’t in enclosed walls. And the Atlantic mirrored our wild hearts at the time, struggling with loss and sorrow for the life we’d left behind.

Shells, Florence OregonAfter I left Florida, she kept up her beach combing ways, bringing home countless shells. They were too pretty to leave behind, she said. After she died, I began returning them to the ocean — perhaps not the one from which they came. Would we confuse a shell gatherer combing the Oregon beaches for treasure? Perhaps. But we’ve long been transplants, my mother and I (and people who don’t always follow the rules), so it’s fitting.

Within a few throws, the kids wanted to join in. At first, they were sad to say goodbye to the shells. They wanted to keep them. “We have more at home, I explained.” I saved the very nicest ones to make something out of — wind chimes or a mobile, perhaps.

And so the container slowly emptied, although not quite by the time they were tired.

Cold Oregon watersThe tide was coming in, encroaching upon the tent, so we packed up and headed over to the ocean side of the beach. The ocean was cold. Which made it fun, apparently, as the kids spent the next hour running to and fro, screaming with glee.

I kept visual contact, knitting by feel, not glancing away for more than a second at the time. The Pacific ocean isn’t known for its tranquility and claims lives every year.

No drift wood logs about. Check. Warnings not to go too deep. Check.

But kids like to test their boundaries and while they started out only knee deep, soon Berry was up to her hips. Then a wave splashed her in the chest, reaching her shoulders.

And they ran back, higher up the beach. And I breathed again.

It’s hard to know, as a parent, how much freedom to allow your children. Enough to explore, to learn, to grow, to test themselves. Perhaps even enough to get hurt a little. But not too much. Nothing fatal or life-altering. They need to test their limits and go beyond what is comfortable or safe. If they don’t, how will they ever live a real life?

Time ticked by and eventually the 5-minute-warning came due. We packed up and trudged back to the car (perhaps they skipped, but I was carrying most of our things). No time for the ice cream I’d planned in Old Town Florence. Instead we finished off our car snacks and drinks and let Harry Potter accompany us home where we arrived sandy, sun baked and disheveled, with only a couple of shells of our own.