Had I Known Then What I Know Now…

It’s been a month since my last post. Time flies. What a cliche, but nevertheless, how true.

For fifteen of the past thirty days, I was in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. It was a good time of the year to be away from northern Minnesota. Spring melt had turned frozen ground into gooey mud. Extra humidity from thawing snow made 32 degrees feel bone chilling.

Isle of Palms had none of that. I wore sandals and strolled barefoot on the beach.

The trip, planned months ago, was to be a vacation for me plus three days of childcare with my granddaughters. Joy had a work conference in Florida and Kellen was going with her, an opportunity for the two of them to get away while Granny Sherry covered the home front with Hadley, almost 7, and Delaney, almost 4.

Had I known then what I know now…

Let’s just say right up front that I summoned the wherewithal to survive. It wasn’t the girls. They were angels! Seriously. What a tribute to their parents.

No. It was their schedule.

I’m thinking back to 1955 when I went to kindergarten. By then, my sister was three, and my brother was one. Our neighbors had teenage kids. They collected me on their way to the bus stop and walked me back after school. Dad left for work early in our only car. Mom stayed home.

Fast forward sixty-eight years to Isle of Palms…

5:30 a.m
My alarm goes off. I stumble out of bed, wash my face, and dress for the day.

6:00 a.m.
Delaney pops out of her room, all smiles and chatter, with Ellie, her much-loved, stuffed elephant. She has dressed herself, and she’s hungry. This is the tree-year-old! I put waffles in front of her.

6:10 a.m.
I enter Hadley’s room with a cheery, “Good morning, sweetheart, time to rise and shine.” Nothing. She sleeps on the top bunk. I climb the ladder and pat the blankets until I locate a leg. Gently massaging that body part, I say, “Time to get up, Hadley.” In a somnabulent state, she arrives in the kitchen.

6:25 a.m.
I have Hadley’s lunch packed and her backpack with the requisite water bottle waiting by the door. While she eats, I brush tangles out of her hair and secure a ponytail. Her clothes are on the counter, chosen the night before. Now, with significant encouragement on my part, she dresses.

6:35 a.m.
Delaney is ready, shoes on, with Ellie in tow. Hadley straps on her backpack, and the three of us walk one block to the bus stop.

6:40 a.m.
Hadley’s on the bus. Delaney and I return to the house. She plays ‘teacher’ while I have my first cup of coffee and load breakfast dishes into the dishwasher.

Delaney’s make-believe classroom

7:15 a.m.
I brush Delaney’s hair ever-so-gently to avoid shrieks of “OWWWW!” Then, contrary to all logic, she insists on a freakishly tight ponytail. I check for any possible clothing adjustments, she’s three, after all. But this fashionista takes after her mother…impeccable.

7:30 a.m.
Delaney stuffs Ellie into her backpack, and we’re out the door.

7:55 a.m.
We arrive at Delaney’s school in Mt. Pleasant and join the queue behind a line of other cars.

8:00 a.m.
The school door opens. Teachers stream out and head for the waiting cars to gather the kids.

8:30 a.m.
Back at the house, I pour my second cup of coffee and collapse on the couch.

I could take the next three hours off. But clean laundry needs folding and dirty clothes mysteriously multiplied overnight. I start the washer. Toys are strewn everywhere throughout the house. There are piles of beach sand on the rug by the front door.

Hadley’s fort

My mother kept a spotless, orderly home. I can’t relax surrounded by clutter. The three ‘free’ hours evaporate.

11:30 a.m.
I drive back to Delaney’s school and fall in line with the other cars moving slowly to receive our children.

12:00 noon
Lunch. Delaney requests playtime before her nap. I say twenty minutes and set the timer.

2:15 p.m.
There are very few things that remove the sunshine from Delaney’s soul, but being awakened early from sleep is one of them. Hadley gets off the bus at 2:30 and we have to be there to collect her. I coax Miss Grumpypants out of slumber while slipping her shoes on. This time, we take the golf cart to the bus stop.

That schedule alone would have been plenty. But there were after-school activities, a promised gelato run, tutoring, gymnastics, a four-year-old friend’s birthday party, music in the park…

Joy and Kellen came home with a new agenda. A house had come on the market in Connecticut, and would I mind watching the girls while they flew there to see it? Of course, I can do that!

After living on the other side of the world for so many years with no deadlines and few responsibilities, taking care of those two, pecious beings  challenged me to the max. Their hugs and sweetness melted my heart. I felt needed and appreciated. But that schedule…OMG!

When Joy and Kellen had taken care of business and were back at home, there were delightful hours at the beach.

We strolled through opulent neighborhoods, and I oogled the unfamiliar architecture of elevated island homes.

Joy took me on a tour of historic Charleston.

We enjoyed the best sushi I’ve ever eaten at a little place called 167 Raw.

Another day, I took myself to Shem Creek Park and wandered the network of boardwalks over miles of wetlands along the Intracoastal Waterway.

In my 20s, I lived in North Carolina for a year. The landscape was similar. Memories resurrected.

What an adventure! I loved every exhausting minute. Saying goodbye was easier knowing that they’re all coming to visit me in August and, as I’ve already noted, time flies.

I returned to the shy green of northern Minnesota spring, to snowless fields and singing birds, to my cozy cottage at Granny’s Landing on Fantasy Bay…and slept…and slept…and slept…

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