Friday, June 12, 2009

Sail Away

I don't write a lot about this guy anymore, not because he doesn't fill my world with stories-- quite the opposite-- but since he turned 10, and started making faces like the one above almost every time I pull out my camera, I've become so aware that his life is becoming his own. And that means I need to be careful when I want to write about Noah, to ask his permission to send my enthusiasm and awe out into this great abyss.

But I couldn't let this one go, and so, I was kindly given the green light by my little sailor man (who will, no doubt, be ready to string me up if he decides to read this..."Little sailor man" is not exactly a cool nickname).

I wrote a year ago about Noah discovering sailing (and sailing inspired Fourth of July floats).

He loves everything (but capsizing) there is to the sport. He talks about these things: how fingertips flutter instead of sink as they skim the water when under sail; the way it feels be called for skipper the first time; the smells of lake and wind and sun and stinky boat that melt from his skin into his sheets at night; the totally awesome teenagers, like Josh and Norm,

that he gets to hang out with every day, as if they are truly the epitome of a life well-lived.

This winter, while waxing poetic as only Noah can to a sailing legend who happens to live in our town, my child got a very big invitation: to sail with this wealth of knowledge every Tuesday night during the Yacht Club's race series. Justin, who, in a previous (aka pre-married) life made a living racing sailboats, heard this news like it was a gift from heaven. Noah, who knew Norm (the teenage hero) also crews the boat (as does his sailing school director) heard that he got to hang out with "the coolest dudes ever" for three extra hours a week. Me? I just heard sailboat. fast. child on board.

This Tuesday was Noah's first stint on Surprise. We were both nervous wrecks before he hit the docks. I ran around doing those things a mother does when she's nervous; I overfed him. I dressed him for the arctic circle, during a monsoon season, even though it was 50 and not raining. I checked and rechecked his lifejacket. I forced him to wear said lifejacket the second he stepped out of my car, in the parking lot, 200 feet from the docks.

(hence the "are you kidding me" expression, I think).

For Noah's part, his simply sat in the backseat, asked me to turn up the radio, and said in a quiet voice, "I'm nervous." and "You think I'll be okay, right?"

The minute we arrived, however, that fog of fear lifted (for him at least) and he was on the boat faster than I could unbuckle Lizzie from her carseat. I stood on the dock for a few minutes, feeling strange and somewhat ackward. He had not needed me to walk him down, to get him settled, to go over pick up times or safety rules. He was simply gone, learning the ins and outs of the boat without even looking back to see if I was still there.

So I snapped a few pictures. And tried not to cry.

For those of you who have older kids, you know this scene well. This moment when you understand that you've arrived at the day when your child feels independent enough to let go without looking back. I didn't know how to feel, so I concentrated on Lizzie squirming in my arms, the chill of the evening air making her bare feet search for warmth again my skin. She would point to Noah's direction and clap, nestle in against me, and then go back to pointing and clapping. I think she got it as well as I did.

Soon enough, the boat left its slip and began disappearing into the harbor.

I went home and began bedtime routines. The baths, the jammies, the snacks. Something kept pulling me back to the water though, and so I packed up Max and Liz and drove along the shore. My breath almost went from me when I saw this:

Do you see? How very far away these boats are? My baby! My first born! On the other side of the bay in a sailboat-- in a race no less-- without a parent's watchful eye. Tension leapt into my breathing. I stopped the car and starred. And then, from the backseat, Max said, "Oh, mom. Noah is racing! Way over there! He is the coolest dude ever." His envious sigh was so big and so reverent that it brought me back to reality. It brought me back to this amazing, beautiful truth: my baby is growing up. And he is one cool dude.

Sailing has been known to draw plenty of metaphors for life. I'll skip that stuff, since it's Noah that is the sailor, not me. Instead I'll simply say this, Noah did something all on his own-- without my protection or guidance or safety net. He's changing. He's learning his way and I'm so filled with respect and admiration that it the best possible sense of the word. This growing up stuff might not be so bad afterall.


Heather said...

Oh brilliant. My oldest is in a similar place though she hasn't found her real passion yet (other than people in general--she loves TALKING to everyone under the sun.) On the other hand here and there I realize that she is growing up, stepping out on her own, a little more each day. And is shocking and wonderful and scary all at the same time.

Joy said...

I'm big into letting my kids experience everything they can (within reason) even if it takes me outside my comfort zone. Kudos to you for letting Noah do this, not hovering, giving him the chance to spread his wings. I'm sure he was thrilled. :)

Brooke G. said...

Oh man, you got me! My boys are so young that it seems inconceivable that they will be doing these things, yet I know it will be here before I know it. I remember watching rambunctions pre-schools when my first was an infant and thinking that it would be FOREVER before my baby would be doing that stuff.. WRONG!!
Gosh, it just sneaks up on you before you know it. I love that Max looks up to his big brother so much - I think that is what got me! Thanks for sharing ;)

A Little Gnocchi said...

Thank you. I need to print this out and fold it up for about 8 years time.

Muslim Hippie said...

Tears. Tears. And some more tears. I read your blog today from behind a curtain of haze! I think I'm the dependent one not them. You write so beautifully!

Sus said...

I adore the image of pointing and clapping, alternating with nuzzling. It just perfectly describes a mother watching a child grow up.

And sailing? That is the COOLEST.

DayDreamer said...

Did like your story.It's unique when parents "grow up" with their children, sharing things, taking care of each other. I'm glad to know that there is a loving family with lots of common interests between them. Don't ever stop being family.

Last Paradise said...

Thank you for sharing your story! It sounds so similar to my husbands story of growing up- and I am sure it will be our future as well. Coincidentally, my Hub used to do a lot of racing around the Great Lakes- and did some work for the 'legend' mentioned here- its a small world, especially in the sailing community!

boatbaby said...

Wow... I feel everything here. The draw of the ocean and sailing... I remember so clearly when I learned to sail and I would take our neighbor's little boat WAY out on Lake Michigan by myself and feel so free and I wondered why my dad was on the shore, waving his arms frantically... "too far, too far" was all I heard.
Now I live on a sailboat. And I have an adventure loving little boy. He's only 5 now, but we're so attached, I can only hope I can handle his emerging independence with as much grace as you.
And if your "little sailor man" is ever on the Chesapeake, we'd be happy to take him out for a sail.

Astarte said...

Amazing!!!! Wow!!! He *IS* one totally cool dude! Josie's 10, too, and I totally feel your awe/pain. Sigh.