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Perfect day with Eli

I should learn by now that a blog entry delayed is often a blog entry denied, and yet, I have been so tired and busy and occupied, that I just haven’t had the time to craft what I wanted. It’s a week late, but c’est la vie.
Last Sunday I had what could only be described as a perfect day with my eldest boy, Elijah. We woke up to a beautiful sunny and warm day, and after the normal morning song and dance of getting Eli dressed and fed, we headed out in the morning to check out the Jewish religious school at the synagogue (it’s that time to start Sunday school for Eli). We went through an orientation / tour of the school, and got a look at what they do. Once done there, we headed over to Bagel Street Cafe for lunch, which is a favorite stomping ground for the family. The family that carbs together gets large together!
Once fueled up, we headed out to the coast to follow-up with an experiment on what was a serendipitous accident. While I was away in Boston, the family went out with the grandparents to Chinese and one of the items consumed was oysters in the half-shell (with very yummy black bean sauce, I’ve had these before), and to everyone’s shock and surprise, Eli not only tried the oysters, but ate several, proclaiming that he loves them. So, following up on that strange success (this is a kid that won’t eat pizza most of the time, but will eat oysters and sushi. Go figure!) we decided to head out to Drake’s bay to an oyster farm. The drive was about an hour, taking us through Point Reyes Station, one of our favorite west Marin destinations (it’s the cheese!), and ending up at Drake’s (formerly Johnson’s) Oyster farm. When we got there, the kids woke up, and everyone got out of the car for a leg stretch and an unguided investigation of the farm, which mostly consisted of lots of shells either being prepared for stringing (they place baby oysters on the ‘mother’ shells and hang them in the water to grow above the estero’s floor) or those that didn’t make the grade adding to the grade of the hillside in large piles of calcium-laden shell chips. Once our curiosities were sated, we headed back in to the small building that served as the farm’s store, and purchased 50 ‘medium’ oysters for $30. You can purchase any size, from ‘small’, to ‘jumbo’ at different price levels, but medium are fairly large by book. Just perfect for barbequeing, which was our goal for the day.
We deposited our newly-acquired treasure along with several scoops of shaved ice into the cooler we brought in the back of the van, and headed back towards home. We stopped briefly at the Cowgirl Creamery for about $40 worth of domestic and imported cheese (yes, we spent more on cheese than on oysters!), and headed back home. On the way out, Eli was telling us how he wanted to go hiking, so we took a brief stop at the top of our valley at a spot called ‘Big Rock’, aptly named because of the gigantic boulder that sits at the crest of the valley’s entrance. There’s a trail that winds along the tops of the hills that line the valley which one day I fully intend on hiking for the entire distance, but for the day, we just took a short visit down the trail. The most exciting part for Eli ended up being looking for, finding and chasing lizards.
After a bit, we corralled the kids back down the path and headed home (remembering the cooler full of oysters waiting for our attention). It was about four in the afternoon, and I knew we didn’t have as much time as it seemed, so I dove right into cleaning the oysters, which Eli eagerly helped me with. Armed with a tub of water, a tub of ice, a wire brush and a scrubber for Eli, we methodically went through each oyster and cleaned the shell of any dirt, mud, algae, or other life forms, so that we didn’t have to contend with the detrious when we wanted to eat our hot bbq’d treasure later on. What most would see as a messy chore, Eli dived into with gusto, and together over the dirty water, we had a bonding moment of aligned purpose. You know, when you look up from what you’re doing at the same time that your parter does, and you look into each others’ eyes for that moment of clarity and mutual appreciation. ‘I love you dad, you’re the best!’ — I love you too, my bestest biggest boy.
Once we had our oysters ready to go, we make a quick run to Safeway for barbeque sauce, briquets and bread (the three b’s), and had a good time. I forget sometimes, but for a young boy sometimes the best thing in the world is a quick trip to the store with just your dad. I remember these times best from my own childhood as times that I had my dad’s focus for myself and myself alone, even if we were just shopping.
We got home, I put the coals up, made some cole slaw, and prepped the bbq sauce as Eli was still aglow from the cleaning and shopping, and hung out with me the whole time. Once the coals were ready, I threw on the oysters and Eli watched on with amazement as I’d pull them off one-by-one, open up the shell, and put on a big of sauce. The oysters cooked faster than we could eat them, so I did a few waves, eating when I could. Eli ate five oysters in all, which is a HUGE amount if you think about it. I was very impressed. I personally cleaned up about two dozen, which is probably about 5 oysters too many, but whatever. It’s good for you.
After we ate our feast, I got Eli cleaned up and pajama’d up, and tucked him in for bed. I read him a chapter from The Dawn Treader, and he crashed out, but before closing his eyes, he reminded me how cool I was and how I was the bestest dad (and bbq’er and oyster cleaner and and and…) 🙂
I myself hopped in the shower, aglow from the praise and the day of fun and bonding with my eldest boy. Lately we’ve been having hard times with Eli’s willfulness and unwillingness to listen when he’s trying to get his way, but on Sunday everything just seemed to go perfectly, and I felt really really close to him. It gives me future sight to Boy Scout trips and family camping outings. Most of all, I just love to bask in the wonderment of the five-year-old mind. Everything that might have seemed mundane to an adult were a source of excitement and amazement. And that amazement and excitement are infectious.
Anyhow, just reporting on a good day had last weekend. It’s Mother’s day weekend this weekend, and we have some more fun things planned. I hope we have another perfect weekend.

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