My son bought me a gingerbread man. While that may not seem like a big deal to you, for me it represents a generous role-reversal.
For close to 20 years, my family joined my mom and nephew for one summer week along the Monterey Bay in what we called our “Cation House.” Because Mom and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through Carmel and its many fine art galleries, we took the then-two-year-olds to the Carmel Bakery and bought them the largest cookie. We took photos, treats in hand and sign overhead, the first of what would become many ‘tradition’ pictures; we went to many of the same places year after year and pictures became markers of how the boys had grown, or how our hairstyles had changed. Mom and I then took turns either perusing art or standing outside with happily occupied little boys strapped into strollers.
C24 and friends took a day-trip to Monterey and Carmel. They walked the same paths we walked every summer. They went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They stopped by Lovers Point, the beach where the guys snorkeled or kayaked while Mom and I hunted for beach glass or read books in the sun. They went to Carmel … and bought gingerbread men.
They texted me the picture in the afternoon. I laughed over the startling contrast between this young man and the child he’d been. My eyes also welled with tears. Three other men would feel in their hearts (and bellies) the significance of this picture, my husband, younger son, and nephew. But the person I most wanted to see it and share a giggle with is my mom.
Mostly, I feel grateful. Mom shared her timeshare with us each summer, and together we created memories that will last forever. Not only that, but as he played tour guide, C24 shared his memories with others. They got lunch at our favorite taqueria and even parked in the same area we found to park in when we went to the Aquarium, a few streets up and over in a residential neighborhood rather than in an overpriced parking garage.
This picture represents a legacy of love and presence. I feel the summer breeze and smell the Bakery’s coffee and pastries. I hear Mom and I cajoling the boys to stand still, trying to time pictures between passersby. I can anticipate that, within maybe two hours, the time it takes little boys to eat a large cookie, they’ll get antsy to run and play on the beach.
C24 returned home last night with a pastry bag. He passed it to me with a hug and this time I didn’t fight the tears. I had joy enough from seeing him with his cookie and didn’t expect one of my own. In fact, when we visited the Carmel Bakery, Mom and I often got a coffee, no cookies for us. Yet my son brought me a sweet treat and the gift of knowing that our kids are beginning to recognize how precious our family memories and traditions are, and that the memories and traditions will continue with the next generation.