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Coming in For Dinner

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For me, the late thirties are dinner time on a summer night when you’re a kid. Your mom calls you in to have the obligatory meal and clean-up with the family, but you’re not ready to go inside. You’re not ready to give up your wildness for table manners. I’m supposed to be hearing my biological clock go off, but like a kid who’s building a fort in the woods too far from the house to hear her mother, I can’t seem to hear my biological clock either.

A couple summers ago, I returned to the summer camp where I worked when I was in college. With a help of a couple little coyotes in the CIT program I ran, I pulled off the ultimate raid. I wasn’t sure if that was something a thirty-six-year-old woman should be proud of, but I was. And along with one of my CITs, I won the canoe leg of a relay race, with my dog, Big Cedar, perched on the front like a siren, and me in my plastic Viking helmet. I slept on the beach in a sleeping bag every night. I still feel like the kid who doesn’t want to come in for dinner.

This fall, I finally bought myself a long board skateboard. I’d wanted one for ten years, but never felt rich enough to splurge a hundred bucks on one until now. The night before Thanksgiving, I found myself at my parents’ house needing some eggs and other ingredients for sweet potato pie, so I skated to grocery store with my backpack on, about a half-mile each way. When I reached home, I wasn’t ready to go back in the house and bake, but I am thirty-eight, so I did. I went back in and I baked and when my sweet potato pie was done, I took my skateboard out again and skated through the streets of my hometown, faster than I’d ever gone before and down bigger hills than I’d ever dared to go scream down before. A tree root under a sidewalk taught me a valuable lesson about skateboarding at night that night, which is to stay on the streets. I skinned my knee and tore a hole in my new jeans. It hurt, but by the time I got back up to my parents’ street, like a kid, I was over it, and skated down the hill a couple more times. That night, I cleaned up my bloody knee in the bathroom sink where I cleaned up my bloody knees when I was six and learning to ride a bike. I smiled big as I gingerly wiped it with a wet washrag. I felt six again, fresh from another lesson in my relative invincibility.

I learned to surf last month. I hadn’t had so much fun falling into water since my brother and brother-like uncle used to chuck me off the dock at the lake where we spent our summer days. I never wanted to stop. I wasn’t ready for how the waning tide changed the waves and ending the good surf window. I wasn’t ready to put my clothes on and come home from my trip, stuffing my formerly free feet into shoes and my formerly free body into a bra. I wanted to run around in a swimsuit for the rest of my life.

Unlike me, many girls played with dolls and dreamt of being wives and mothers. My mother was one of those girls, and I feel so lucky that she was. I feel so lucky to have had a mom that dreamed of being a mother. And I feel so lucky to be a woman in this time and place where I can still run wild. I can still be the girl that didn’t play with dolls, but who built forts in the woods and had slime fights with her brother near the dock at the lake. I can still be the girl who doesn’t want to come in for dinner on a limitless summer night.

Instead of being a mom, I’m lucky enough to be an aunt, and the best aunts are a little wild.

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