The Littles

The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

Our annual camping trip has been going on long enough that no one can remember how long it has been. We spent a fair amount of time rolling through past events (big birthdays, new babies, friends who joined us and then never returned…) trying to pin this trip more securely on a timeline. Five years? Four years? Who knows?

What we know is that the little kids in our group are the last of the little kids in our group. What we know is that from here on out (if the big kids are any indication) we are in for more eye rolling, more deep sighs and more complicated emotions.

When we started the camping trip, we had only little kids. Though we slept less and worried more, we were rewarded with the uncomplicated joy of the three year-old.

That first year, all the kids danced to the cover band playing “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Mustang Sally.” That first year, they played air guitar and threw their arms around each other and we allowed ourselves to be pulled from our seats on the grass to dance along.

Now, the almost eight year-olds want to go into the gift shop and buy something – anything, they want to ride their bikes at top speed on gravel roads through the dark night. These almost-eights look at us like we’re crazy when we ask them to dance.

At the beach, the almost-eights hurl themselves into the waves. They ride boogie boards for hours and wear wet suits and rash guards and shout orders as though they are weathering a storm at sea. They stop briefly to chew through sandwiches and devour bags of chips. They stop briefly to feed and then, again, they are off.

The little guys sit on the sand. They dig deep holes and their faces light up when they see the bag of sand toys.

“A bucket!” they shout with delight. “A rake!”

It is amazing to be right in the middle of where we have come from and where we are going. It is amazing to see the way a new set of front teeth can change a smile, the way a summer’s worth of growth can broaden a set of shoulders and lengthen a pair of legs. All this forward motion makes the sweet curve of the three year-old cheek more precious. Their slightly drunken gait, a remainder of toddler years, is more wonderful. We all watch these, the last littlest, with love and wonder magnified by the knowledge that they too are growing fast.

Tanya is a writer in Los Angeles. Her work can be found at You Dearest You

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