It's really nice to have an oldest child. While the other two may, at any moment, tantrum, shriek or sob theatrically, Mae has become my rock. Yes, she has taken to rolling her eyes at me occasionally and can dole out a healthy helping of teenagerly attitude but, for the most part, she's a pleasure.
When we went to family camp last week, Mae and I decided to take a hike. I love to hike. Walk and talk, there's no greater pleasure for me. Ben and my best dates are ones that include at least two hours of walking. The endorphins flow, we can leisurely chat, problem-solve or imagine our future.
Mae and I left camp by the paved road. We headed uphill for what seemed like miles. It was hot, it was our first full day at altitude, and Mae's energy flagged. She took to resting every 500 yards or so until I lured her along with ghost stories. The kid, like me, finds that shit fascinating. We ran through all my personal ghost stories (the chair that flew across the room during a game of Ouija, the Indian brave my brother's girlfriend spotted on our driveway long ago, the dream of that same girlfriend years later in which my father appeared with a message for us) and went on to some more generic ones (the haunted room on the 13th floor of the hotel, etc) and soon we were to the top of the hill. We walked into the forest and that's when the really good conversation began. We talked about life after death, reincarnation and Buddhism, comparing views and opinions. We got into it. I couldn't have had a better, more interesting talk with someone my own age.
Yesterday, the whole family went to the community pool. The usual scenario is me and three kids and while we all swim together, my eyes are always on Mihiretu, who, though he's learning fast, is not water-safe. He, the daredevil that he is, swims without warning into the middle of the deep end, only to get four feet, raise his head and start to sink, watery eyes wide open searching for help.
But yesterday Ben was on Mihiretu duty and I had the great pleasure of some swim time with Mae. Mae, like me, is a water girl. We're always the first ones in and the last ones out. We could play and race and handstand for hours. We are, we joke, part dolphin.
Yesterday I showed Mae my few water ballet skills, learned when I was probably her age from my older sister who was way into it. Soon she was trying them herself. We floated out from the wall on our backs and, at the count of three, lifted one pointed foot straight in the air before using our arms to push ourselves down underwater, the extended leg disappearing like an arrow. We worked up to a two-leg lift, a twisting two-leg lift, a twisting front surface dive, all syncronized. We spent an hour perfecting our skills, laughing as we came to the surface after a particularly botched trick, beeming in triumph when we achieved a new level of accuracy. I couldn't have been having more fun - with anyone. Mae is just old enough to be a small peer and just young enough to bring out the child in me.
I woke up this morning with sore abdominal muscles. Not from the yoga class I took yesterday but from all the piking and spinning, my dolphin time with my girl.