The two were smiling as she drove along the highway, he in his car seat beside her, with the radio playing oldies. Dad was not with them, as he was caring for Gram in those days, and late afternoon was a time when he was needed to read her the mail, pay whichever bills had come in, and check to see that she had what was needed for supper.
As they took the ramp exiting the highway, her son began watching traffic with her.
"There's a dump truck, Mum ... and that's a ... that's a brown truck."
"Can you read the letters on that truck, Rob?" she asked him, downshifting as they came to the end of the ramp and the bright red stop sign, shining in the afternoon sun.
"It's U P S, Mum. I don't know what that says. But the red sign says stop!"
She did stop, and looked to the left, then pulled out carefully into the traffic. The ride from the highway to the shore was busy with commuters who lived year round at the beach and were anxious to get home before the sun set, as the reflective glow on the eastern shore was going to be spectacular.
They were following the brown truck now, until it turned right into a busy shopping plaza. The traffic lights ahead were just turning yellow, and then red, and they stopped again. Rob had settled back in his car seat, and was watching the lights. As soon as the green light lit, he said "That means go, Mum. Why are we still stopped?"
Before she could answer, traffic began to move, and she eased into the left lane as they approached the turn toward the beach. Heading north, the scenery changed dramatically from the commercial area to a residential one, with large houses built to the left of the road, and a sea wall and dunes off to the right. Rob watched out his window, and she slowed as she approached the spot where they would find a jetty and tide pools. The parking lot ahead was still fairly empty as the temperature was brisk; not many came out to enjoy the sea in late winter, but then was when she found it most beautiful.
They pulled in diagonally to a space near the opening in the sea wall, and took the kite out from behind the seat. Standing beside his door, she made sure his knitted hat was pulled down over his ears, his jacket was zipped up over his scarf, and his mittens were tucked into the cuffs of his sleeves. Then she lifted him down to the pavement, and let him climb up onto the wall. He began to walk carefully along the top, with his mother walking alongside him. She stepped through the opening and met him on the sandy side, and lifted him down onto the still-frozen sand.
Rob held the kite and she unrolled the reel of string, walking away from him but still tethered by the kite. His eyes squinted in the wind, and he watched her for their signal. When he saw her lift the reel high over her head, he gave the open kite a push up over his, and she began to pump the string. Gradually the kite lifted, tilting crazily side to side until it had enough height to rise steadily upward on the south wind. Rob ran toward his mother, and together they held the reel, his mittened hands within her cold fingers, working together to guide the kite into the face of the wind. The seagulls began squawking and squealing as the multicolored diamond with the long flapping tale hovered over the tide pools, interrupting their foraging. They were backed up far enough now that Rob could climb over the rocks and look down into the tide pools, searching for urchins with their sturdy, bristly covering. Finding even the discarded shell of one would be a treasure, but none were to be found this time. Coming back to his mother, they both leaned against the seawall and watched the reflection over the water of the sun setting behind them.
Pink turned to lilac, and then lavender, and then violet. "We better hurry - the bugs will be out soon," she said to him. She began reeling in the kite slowly, careful not to pull so hard against the wind that the string would break. Rob watched as it jerked and bobbed over the water, and when it lowered enough and was back over wet sand he ran toward the sea to catch it's landing.
They ran together back toward the truck, and she lifted him again onto the wall and passed through the opening. He hopped down to the pavement, and stood by the door as she wrapped the kite back into a narrow twist and tucked it behind the seat. Lifting him up and buckling him in, she saw the first of the small flies landing on the sun-warmed windshield. She hurried over to her door, got in, and looked across the seat at Rob, who was counting the flies as they arrived.
"Six, seven ... we beat them here, Mum." They continued to gather, seeking the warmth of the still warm engine.
"Will dad be home when we get there?" She nodded, and reached over to pull his mittens off. He reached up to his head and pushed the hat off his forehead. Starting the engine, they waited a few more minutes, watching the violet sky turn to dark purple, navy blue, and then looked for stars ... but saw none.
|Moon and Venus at sunset|
"We'll see her when we get back on the highway. She's in the south-west, waiting for us. There's no cloud cover tonight; it's going to be very cold when we get home."
"And the moon will be with Venus? And Dad will be at home, right? And he will make a fire in the wood stove, right?"
"Right," she said, driving carefully toward the highway, and home.