I arrived at my family’s beach on Vashon Island on a Friday early evening (see previous post You CAN Go Home Again). My mom was already there and, along with my sister and brother-in-law, we shared a wonderful dinner in our dear little cabin. Carol and Rolly left soon after for the mainland and I went to walk on the beach. When I returned to the cabin my niece, Amy, was there. Amy is much younger than my sister’s two boys and we didn’t see much of each other when she was growing up.
She adores her grandma, my mom. They have a fun, light relationship and Amy helped me to see my own mother with new eyes.
Saturday morning was very special. Mom had written a short history of her life, requested by one of my nephews, to be read at her 90th birthday party the following day. She shared it with Amy and me that morning and we ended up asking her all kinds of questions about her early years. It was the kind of time we can’t plan or make happen. We laughed a lot and it was touching and deep and spoke to our roots as family.
THEN Mom made us her fabulous pancakes! I hadn’t had them in years and years. I have to say there are few things better than sitting in my family’s cabin, the bay lapping at the shore beneath us, enjoying my mom’s homemade pancakes. The weekend could have ended right there and I would have been happy, I swear.
Throughout the cabin are old photos of the family. This was Amy’s doing some years back, a lovely addition to our family place. Something I am learning about her is that she seems to naturally create beauty, and she values the importance of family, of our heritage. I took a few photos of her framed histories, shooting through the glass so you’ll see some reflections, to share with you. Here is one of my dear Great Grandmother Casson in her garden on the beach:
This is my mom as a girl, standing just down from grandma’s house:
This is my sister, Carol, in the water with her own row boat, given to her by our Great Grandpa Leonard:
And this is my dad’s old hat that he used to wear on the beach, hanging above a photo of my Great Grandpa Leonard. Dad is gone now, but his memory is very much alive in this place he conceived of and built:
Looking through all the photos in their frames on the wall, got me to thinking about the generations of family that have grown up on this beach. My great grandma, my grandma, my mom and all of her siblings, my sister and me, my sister’s children, and now their children. My mom’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The photos are a beautiful record of our many generations on that very beach. We talked about how priceless this is, over the weekend; how so few families get to have it. But I also told about the village I now call home—how families have been on this land for generations too. My own experience on Vashon makes me appreciate and respect that all the more.
The tide was way out so, after breakfast, Amy and I took a very long walk on the beach. We came upon an eagle’s nest just down from the cabin, the adult soaring out through the trees above us, the juvenile presenting itself on our return. We gathered rocks, looked at the sea life, and speculated on deposits of brick, iron, pottery, and fossils that we found scattered about—just as my family has been doing, on this very beach, since the 1800s.
And we talked. Amy is 27 now, which I can hardly believe. We spoke as adults about our lives, our family. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be beginning to know this charming human being that my sister brought into this world—the greatest act of creation there is, I believe—something I have never done. Not having children was a conscious choice for me. But because I am a part of this family, I get to personally experience this next generation coming up behind us. And I realize what a gift that is.
The boys now have children of their own and I like to think that, generations from now, they will be telling their own grandchildren stories of their crazy aunts, Jeane and Amy, who also walked on this beach.
The thread of our heritage connects us in a special way, beyond the family of man, this is my family, our family. And I think there are few things more important than that.
Love to you all,