Quite some Summer. Dominican Republic with tía D, Summer camp here in Queens for the boys interspersed with city weekends (wobbly starts on bicycles etc), and then London and Devon.
New York weekends
JNH’s imagination is heightened in moments of transition. So it was the last weekend of Summer, at the end of the long holidays and before he started 1st grade. As we came back over the Triborough bridge on the M60 bus from Harlem he recalled how this was the bridge that the herd of bison were travelling over.
On other occasions, in Astoria Park, the trundling traffic on the bridge overhead as it reaches down into Queens was, for him, a herd of stampeding bison from China. They kept coming, and coming, thousands of them. And now here we were bang in the middle of them on a bus. Nose pressed to the windows he watched the cars overtaking us and the ones we overtook. The slow ones were tired from their long journey, but on they ran.
A river swim in Devon
As the tide goes out, you can swim from a jetty near the mouth of the River Avon to Bantham Beach. I say swim, but it’s more like get swept. Mum and I donned unflattering wetsuits and J swam without one, used to it from many swims in the Devon water, and in we went. Back on the shore were C, CMH, JNH and Dad. We’d been crabbing on the jetty, the kids patiently luring four or five crabs with strips of raw bacon hooked onto their lines, who got to swim about in small buckets for a while before being tipped back into the river. There were two pulsing jellyfish as well, scooped up in nets as they floated by.
CMH is four and a half now, which means he’s a little boy in many respects but still clings to babyhood at certain moments. This was one of them. He was distraught at me wading into the wide river and being whisked away by the current – separation anxiety played out in rushing water. As the current carried me away towards the beach, for a while I could hear his crying, and had those familiar mixed feelings of guilt combined with “this is my time, I will enjoy, this, will enjoy.” And of course soon the crying was out of earshot, and I did enjoy the rest of the swim, even though once out of the water on the beach I jogged (in that unflattering wetsuit) across the sand dunes to the Bantham carpark to meet him and the others. C had calmed him down by feeding him a bunch of grapes, and all was forgiven.
Subiendo la loma, bajando la loma
On our second day in Dominican Republic we crammed into tía D’s car to drive from Santo Domingo to Sosúa, the beach town on the North Coast that C had visited many times as a child and teenager. Tía D was nervous about driving over the mountain/hill en route with its perilous bends so we met a friend of hers at Moca, who “escorted” us the rest of the way to Sosúa by driving in front. The plan had been for him to drive her car, but he wanted her to build up courage by driving herself. C travelled over the hill in his car. In ours, tía D drove, tia Y was in the passenger seat, and in the back were me, the boys, and the dog.
The scenery was stunning, rolling green mountains under bright blue sky. I admired the view best as I could with my heart in my throat as we rounded steep hairpin bends while locals on motocicletas or driving small trucks who do that journey all the time veered past us, tía D lighting a cigarette to smoke out the window as she drove, and with the other hand fiddling with the radio button that was tuning in and out. On the downhill side JNH cried a little before falling asleep and CMH puked at some point, and I found myself clutching a plastic bag of sick for the rest of the way. We made it without further incident and spent four days in the village of Charamicos by Sosúa beach. I could now understand completely why C said “but this isn’t a beach” when I first took him to one of my childhood beaches in Devon.
On the return journey, tía D drove all of us with no escort. I felt respect for her: our sporadic visits take her out of her comfort zone, this one being no exception.
Very few of my teachers made an impression. Those that did, had a sparkle in their eyes. One that comes from a profound interest in the world around them.
“Mama, I am allergic to something.”
“I am allergic to the light part of fireflies if I touch it at night. Just the light.”
“What does it do to you?”
“It makes me cough”.