What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

1. Toddlers have an inborn fear of water. They also develop unnatural attachments to their life jackets, and so refuse to take them off, even at mealtimes. (Or at least my toddler did. Little Fish spent a day standing on shore, watching the big kids swim. And he loved every minute of it.)

2. Big kids have more sense than I give them credit for (that is—a very little, which is still more than none at all). St. Nick never pushed his brother in the water, never fell in the water, never jumped in the water, never ventured into the deeps. He inherited my hesitation. He’ll get over it, but hopefully not for a few more years.

3. All cottages should come equipped not just with maids and chefs, but also with nannies.

4. But since they don’t, it’s okay not to know where all six (combined) kids are at any given moment.

5. It’s also okay to see an assortment of fearsome insects indoors. It’s a cottage—this is expected. The frog climbing up the window behind my husband’s head was a bit more of a surprise.

6. Frogs are every bit as amazing to grownups as they are to kids.

7. Macs may indeed be superior to PCs.

8. Even my husband agrees my swimsuit looks horrid (floral and skirted), but agrees it does not make me look fat. A workable trade-off, I think.

Does this fender make my butt look big?

Does this fender make my butt look big?

9. The fragrant breeze on the sun porch at 1am has the power to transport me to summer camp when I was eight. Early morning swimming lessons (which I failed), angst-ridden walks to the bathhouse in the dark, lonely hours in the cabin while the other girls swim with their friends. How good to be an adult, but how easily I remember those anxieties of childhood.

10. Babies will sleep anywhere.

11. Pete’s Strawberry Blonde tastes even better with friends.

12. Cloves still give me a stomachache.

13. Two men and four kids in a rowboat is a sight to behold.

14. Even first thing in the morning, after little sleep and with no makeup, my friend is still beautiful.

15. And even though she’s beautiful, my husband still looks only at me.

16. We have been blessed with incredible, fun, creative, cool, talented friends.

It was a magical weekend, both for us and for the children. I don’t think I have ever seen the kids so happy, or so tired. But there is one final thing I learned this weekend.

17. My world is too small; there are too many things I do not know and now long to know.

I long to row to the middle of the lake at midnight, and listen.

I long to wait there and watch dawn rise into the rippling bowl.

I long to slide down the hill in a toboggan in winter—with or without the kids.

I long to capture the magic. To hold on to it so it will never fade. I long to hold the glow on the children’s faces, to keep fresh the longing in my own heart. But no matter how many words I use, or how many photographs I take, the brilliance of the moment will fade, as it must.

This is the nature of magic.