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Napping in the Outer Banks

Jun 21, 2023 08:25AM ● By Matthew Jones

We were in Duck, North Carolina, in late May. We were there with family and friends for our annual beach trip to the Outer Banks. It was a chilly, cloudy day, so instead of going to the beach, we explored the Duck boardwalk area. We had been exploring for a couple of hours but were ready to head back. You, my 3-year-old daughter Lily, accompanied me to walk back to the car.

I pushed you in the stroller along the boardwalk. I suggested we sing some songs together—we hit “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Twinkle Twinkle” and the ABCs. You asked me to play your current favorite song on my phone, “the rocket ship song.” That is David Bowie’s "Space Oddity." I sang along as we walked, and I ran during the part where the spaceship blasts off. By the time we got back to the car, you were asleep.

I paused before loading you into your car seat. I noticed how the whole day so far was written across you.

You were wearing a really cute Encanto dress but insisted on putting a pajama shirt on over it. The shirt said “Bed time is the best time,” which is ironically the polar opposite of your strong anti-nap stance. It wound up working out because it was a little chilly out and the extra shirt helped. But you always insist on having it your way. 

I noted the red crusty gunk around your mouth. You got it from gnawing on the watermelon Laffy Taffy you chose when we went to a candy store on the Duck boardwalk. Your brother picked a stick of rock candy. I picked a bag of European fish that were ostensibly like Swedish Fish but wound up being disappointing. I went back in and got some fudge, and we all ate our candy together.

You had dirt and grime under your fingernails from digging in the sand at the beach this morning despite the chill. Contributing to it was dirt from playing and climbing at the little playground near the Duck town hall. We parked at the “waterfront shops” shopping center half a mile north of there, then walked with our family along the boardwalk there. We saw a snake swimming in the water, and you wanted to stay and keep watching the snake. The playground was small but popular, with great places to climb, swing and spin.

The bruises and cuts on your knees were clear to see. You fell on the boardwalk three separate times when prancing around with your brother. You were running around by the ice cream shop, and the cute little souvenir stores, and the art gallery where I bought a sandpiper sculpture that reminded me of you.

Your sandy blonde hair was all tangled and wild. The last couple of days had been a whirlwind of playing at the beach and splashing in the pool at our beach house rental just south of Duck. You were far too busy to take a bath, let alone brush your hair. It fits your wild personality, though.

This whole story was written across the tableau of your tired little frame. It’s funny how taking a minute and getting a look with fresh eyes can reveal so much. It showed the day we had, sure. But some mindful contemplation revealed so much more. I saw the wonderful girl you are- the love of music and dancing, the fierce independence, the kindness. That was all wrapped up in your little snoozing bundle. All it took was a minute away from the everyday rush of parenting.

I scooped you up into your car seat and we headed off to the next adventure.
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