A Trip Last Summer - Part 5

By Corey Nicolaides - June 12, 2019

We started the day slowly and there were no big plans. We weren’t going to Nana and Gumpy’s because there was a possibility of what we thought was Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.

Ayla was watching Nature Cat on the tv in the living room while Alaina finished getting ready, and I was researching the local area to see if anything interesting was happening.

The three of us walked down Market Street to Zumi’s Espresso to get coffee and something to eat. If I’m being totally transparent here, I might have been in Zumi’s everyday of the trip. I’m certain it was almost everyday. I’d purchased one of these “Citrus” muffins the first time I went in there, and I don’t know, maybe it was sprinkled with narcotics because I desperately needed that muffin everyday, and I’ve been thinking about it everyday since. (Update June 10, 2019: Still thinking about it.)

We took our “breakfast” (morning dessert) down the street and sat on a bench at the corner sipping our coffee and eating our muffins and talking about what we might do with our day.

We walked across the street to this cute little toy store named “Henry Bear’s Park”. It was clean and organized and jam-packed with unique toys from all over the world. It wasn’t busy so we stayed and played a while. The employees running the store were friendly to Ayla and seemed genuinely happy to be there. It’s the kind of toy store that you wish your town had. Ayla loved it!

We left Ipswich and drove to Newburyport. We visit Newburyport on almost every trip out here, partly because of it’s proximity to Nana and Gumpy’s house, but mostly because it’s just a beautiful area to walk around.

Cobblestone roads and brick pathways, bright white trim around all of the windows and doors. Old lamp posts which might be replicas made to match the original ones. Street performers playing music in the cool of the shade. Delicious food smells wafting around every corner. Cute shops and unique stores with tastefully crafted signs. Newburyport is always very clean, and even though it’s kind of a tourist attraction it’s never been unbearably busy. A class from the nearby preschool was walking to the library, and the children followed their teacher around in a perfect row like little ducklings. I mean, who knows, maybe their teacher is a tyrannical dictator and the kids are terrified of the lashings they’ll receive if the step out of line, but it all looked very sweet and charming to me. An older couple, seated on a bench, enjoying mid-morning ice cream cones.

It’s all about as quaint as you’d like it to be, without reaching that tipping point where you start to wonder if you’ve stumbled into a cult community. I’m looking at you, New Town at St. Charles, MO. (STL residents know what I’m talking about.)

We walked down to the boardwalk and enjoyed the view of the Merrimack. We looked at boats and waived to the Harbor Patrol.

Alaina received a call from her Mom, with some bad news related to the wedding. The ministers daughter had been in a serious boating/water accident. She’d been rushed to the hospital, it sounded very serious, and it looked like Tyler (minister) wouldn’t be able to officiate the wedding. That's all anyone knew at the time.

We continued walking around Newburyport, discussing what might happen if they have to reschedule the wedding. Could we stay longer? Could we come back? Would we just fly Alaina back out for it?

The Beach Again

Tired of milling around in town, we decided to give the beach another go. This time we were going at low tide, and we drove up the coast until we found a beach that was secluded, open, flat, and had plenty of rocks to pick up and examine.

Ayla has been so excited about the idea of the beach. At home —for months now— we’ve been pretending to be at the beach by setting out towels and buckets and toys around the living room. When it seems like everything is just right, Ayla’s hand will shoot up with her pointer finger extended and she’ll ring out with “Oh! I’m forgetting something.” and she’ll run to get an umbrella, a bottle of sunblock, and a pretend snack.

We really wanted to find a way for her to experience and maybe even enjoy the real beach. Ayla often collects rocks around our house, so we knew a rocky beach would be interesting for her, and we thought Ayla would do better with compacted sand at low tide because it wouldn’t squish up between her toes as much.

We searched along the levee for a safe spot to climb down the rocks, and then Alaina an I helped Ayla down carefully. Alaina almost lost her footing, but we made it in one piece.

Ayla walked out onto the beach and was really excited, so Alaina took Ayla’s sandals off and …

We tried to talk her down, but she just couldn’t get over the feeling of sand sticking to her feet. Okay, no problem. Alaina brushed her feet off with a towel and put her sandals back on.

Then everything was right with her world again.

“Come on, Dad. Let’s go!” Ayla shouted enthusiastically.
“I’ll stay here, Sweetheart. Go on, have fun and bring me some rocks!” I replied.
“Okay, Dad!” Ayla giggles and runs off.

Ayla was finally enjoying the beach, maybe not in the relaxed way Alaina does, but in her own way, Ayla’s way. I was happy to see her exploring. She was amazed when she found a crab leg, and she brought me a dozen different rocks and a couple of small shells.

I put my camera down for a moment and just observed. There were very few people on the beach at the time, so I wasn’t following Ayla around worried about her getting lost or being abducted. Anxiety tapped me on the shoulder once or twice, but the sun was soaking me in vitamin D, which I think helped keep my irrational mind on mute for a bit.

When times are good, I tend to ask myself “Did you ever think we’d get here?" Honestly, there were times when I didn’t think we would. I feared for Ayla’s life —many times— in those first few months after she was born. I feared for her life a number of times at home when she was still a baby, and since. I’ve felt personally responsible for the decision making at home with regard to her oxygen saturations, her vent settings, her ND tube replacement, g-tube replacement, her trach care, her nutrition, when she should get this or that treatment, and when to draw the line and take her to the hospital.

So watching her run across the sand in her pink sandals, wearing a Minnie Mouse shirt, carrying a crab shaped magnifying glass in her hand, well, it seemed like some kind of dream.

When she turned around and yelled “Dad! Look at this one!” and came running back to me giggling the whole way, well, it seemed like a dream too. And when I said “Ayla, go run. Run and I’ll take pictures of you!” and she took off running with her arms out, flipping her hair, laughing and making airplane noises … that’s the kind of thing I’ve hoped for but hardly dared to imagine. Yet there she was, making it real.

How did we get here? Minutes ago she was a baby with wires and tubes all over her, and she was chemically paralyzed because of the delicate surgery she’d just undergone. Now look at her. Now she’s a runner, a comedian, a pretend airplane pilot, an explorer, a geologist, and for me, for us, she’s a dream come true.

Next: Legoland!

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