I usually love coming to the Delaware beach in the fall but this year the timing hasn’t quite worked out for me, weatherwise and otherwise. After happily squandering one sunny day outdoors, I’ve spent more than a week staring out the window at the wet, flattened dune plants and the wild gray ocean beyond them. In the meantime, I have read six books, taught three Zoom classes, and watched one limited series on TV. (“Alias Grace”; not great but not terrible.) I’ve made two pots of soup, a batch of Smitten Kitchen corn fritters, and several cans of tuna; there are four slices of leftover Grotto Pizza in the fridge I hope to get to today. When I arrived in Dewey, I was a couple of weeks into a weight-loss plan that eschewed alcohol but after ten days of gray I realized I don’t have a scale here and someone’s gotta finish that Bota Box.
I did have some visitors, but they left, and I can’t say I blame them. My sister beat me at Scrabble, so went out on a high note. My friend Jennie was so terrified by the howling winds overnight that she built a “fort” in the back bedroom by closing the accordion door, barricading the windows, and draping blankets from the upper bunk bed to surround the lower. She hid herself in there until morning and left after breakfast.
Yesterday, unfortunately, I grated my index finger instead of the Parmesan cheese. Oh, dear. Though the dog has put all four of his feet down against leaving the house except to pee, I dragged him along to DB Convenience, the only establishment open in the little roadside strip mall. $7.99 for band-aids seemed exorbitant, so I came home and fashioned a surprisingly serviceable one out of duct tape and a piece of paper towel.
I wait every day for new puzzles from the New York Times and check the Weather app at least once an hour. By this time, the little icon for wind is printed inside my eyelids. Sunrise and sunset, usually the highlights of my stay at Surfside Plaza, have been purely conceptual.
But I’m burying the lede here, since something very exciting happened to my family one month ago today. I was happy to be reminded by my daughter-in-law that this calls for a poem, since I wrote one last time, remember? And somehow now, having written the poem and painted the pictures, the terrible week doesn’t seem so terrible after all.
Everything I Know
is not much. Otherwise I might not be at the howling beach
in a deserted condominium in a week-long storm. The locals
have tried to help me out — there’s a half-price burger special
downtown on Mondays, they say, and 20% off lifeguard onesies
and tiny t-shirts that say Mermaid in Training. Beyond that,
they advise a nap.
And that’s your department, baby, effortlessly slipping
in and out of consciousness, all seven pounds of you draped
over my shoulder, a pink-swaddled cloud. They are certainly taking
good care of you up there in Brookline: two infant gyms,
a fine knitted hat, a carseat that turns into a stroller,
a towel that turns into a bunny, a little boy who turns into
a brother. A mama, a papa, a puppy and two eager grandmas,
one of whom snapped
a picture when you looked into my eyes.
I was already yours forever. Happy to teach you everything I know,
which comes down to some rather frightening cautionary tales
and a recipe for lentil soup. I grew up at the beach, I tell people,
so nahhhhturally I love the off-season. Bundled teenagers
on the boardwalk in the snow circa 1973. Fifty years later
the Atlantic waves are still extravagantly crashing, though
climate change puts a crimp in the romance, and calling it Ophelia
But let’s not go there. God only knows what you will see
in your long luscious life. (As your grandmother, I’m
reminding God: Long! And luscious!) After all, people
have been scurrying around the globe for centuries
so you could arrive in Brookline, Massachusetts
with the names of a Latin princess and a Lithuanian Jew.
May the kishkas of your mishpocha and the corazones
of your madronas gird you and protect you, and if you are
someday a lonely old lady on a wintry beach in a windswept
condo I hope you remember the comforts of poetry. And
postcards. I’ll be somewhere, watching.
Don’t forget to write.