Last week, as I adventured on Whidbey Island, my brain was in throwback mode. As I cruised along Highway 20, making my way up the long, skinny island, I recalled many a family visit to this Pacific Northwest paradise, and felt entirely grateful for all the joyful memories made.
Digging through my archives tonight, I realize that most of our trips went undocumented. Yes, that is how family adventures rolled in the days before cell phones with cameras, or before digital photography in any form. There just weren't enough hours in the day to attend to such details as buying film, packing the camera, and good heavens, finding a free minute to take out said camera out of its bag and actually use it. With four little ones and a red-haired rascal in tow, I had my hands full.
But happily, a handful of photos are all that is needed to tell the delightful tale of my family's visits to Whidbey.
Oh, look, it's me...chilling on the western side of the Deception Pass bridge as the sun sets gloriously in the west. I lost those sunglasses that same evening.
Looking west from the bridge, that's Canada on the distant right, and straight ahead lies the open Pacific. That shining orb in the sky, often unrecognizable to Pacific Northwesterners, is the sun.
Though it's hard for me to concern myself with man-made creations in this land of stunning natural beauty, I have always had a crush on the Deception Pass bridge. That sweeping arch just takes my breath away.
^ Working backwards through my memories, this visit was typical during my daughters' teen years. More than once, I loaded up the car with a handful of adventure-seeking teens to make an evening trip up to Deception Pass. There's something about walking out on that windswept bridge in the dark and gazing down at the barely visible and notoriously treacherous waters far below that makes a person feel wild, reckless and just a little bit naughty.
Which is just the way a teenager often likes to feel.
The rocky headlands surrounding the bridge are also a perfect place for stargazing, and more than once, my fourth-born brought her telescope along.
During these years, I also made the hour-long trip to the bridge once or twice by myself, just for the novelty of enjoying my new-found freedom as a mom of big kids.
But the trip documented here was taken with my second-born, with the intention of taking some photos of the sunset. The views were glorious as always, though I'm afraid the camera on my old Blackberry left something to be desired.
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Four funny girls on a rock. I sent this winning shot with the Christmas cards that year.
My babies and me on another rock, this time gazing out at the water. I bet at least one of them was asking me, "When are we going to eat?"
Numbers 3, 4, and 1, playing with rocks and trying to stave off hypothermia. The waters around Whidbey Island are a gorgeous temptation, but always freezing cold.
There is nothing like the sheer joy and concentration of a baby at the beach. My little rock-loving fourth-born at sixteen months was a perfect example. Make a mental note of those striped baby overalls; they made more than one trip to a Whidbey beach.
It's a big jump backwards in time to land on another documented Whidbey adventure, so let's go back a decade to a fun day at North Beach. I remember the wind blowing with wild abandon, flapping the cloth on the picnic table, threatening to send our juice boxes flying, and making us all a little frantic. After lunch, we retreated around the corner to the more sheltered beaches on the north side of the island, and had a joyful splash session in the sand and water. We left by mid-afternoon, before anyone got cranky, with plenty of fresh, dry clothes and scrumptious snacks for the ride home.
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A newborn and a toddler. It all seems so simple now.
Our first family dog, named Casey, was every bit the rugged explorer yet tender and careful around the little ones. He loved Whidbey adventures just as much as the rest of us.
Skip back another five years to my first few weeks as a mother of two. Although I was not quite ready to take on a Whidbey adventure by myself, a trip to the island with a few extra adults in tow was a dream getaway. Our destination this time was Rosario Beach, which lies just north of the Deception Pass bridge. While my snoozy little second-born dreamed away in the front pack, my first-born attempted to throw every stone on the beach into the water.
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Two baby girls at the tulip fields; my first-born is the snazzy dresser on the right.
Technically, this photo was not taken on Whidbey Island. My only-child first-born and I were en route to an island adventure with mother-and-daughter friends when we stopped by the blooming tulip fields of nearby Skagit Valley. After drinking in these colorful blossoms, and attempting to keep our girls from bathing in giant mud puddles, we continued on to the island for a sweet day of beach-combing, picnicking and changing diapers in the back of my car.
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Recognize these overalls? Worn here by my first-born, they played their part in many an island adventure, as shown above.
This single snap is all that remains of a birthday outing to the west side of the island. Yet I remember perfectly how the sun came out just as we stepped out of the woods onto the open beach, transforming a gloomy day into magical adventure. I recall my brand new one-year-old's fascination with eating the sand. I figured that if I let her try a taste, she would quickly realize the error of her ways and stop immediately. Nope. She liked it. Go figure.
And with perfect clarity, I remember appreciating just how right this place felt. In that moment, I hoped and dreamed that my daughter and her future siblings would spend many happy hours playing on sandy beaches like this one, and I dared myself to make that dream come true.
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How about some white J. Crew booty shorts for a hike in the woods?
My boy, Casey, understood perfectly how to leap off a wooden footbridge into the splashy little stream down below. But he needed some help in figuring out how to get back up.
No doubt Whidbey Island has been the scene of many a fine family adventure. But I've been visiting here since the days before children. There are no surviving photos of my very first trip, but I'm quite sure that this hike through the woods was my second. Just a day or two after arriving from his birthplace in Kansas, my spunky little pup got his first taste of adventure on Whidbey and I lived to tell the story.
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These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more - field trips with our science class, countless over-and-back ferry rides, barbecues at the homes of island-dwelling friends, and a handful of mid-winter breaks spent with our homeschooling buddies at an amazing beach house. But alongside of all those memories, last week's outing proves that my amazing adventures on Whidbey Island are not over yet.
Who knows what might happen next.