I’ve missed the smell of the sea. I’ve missed oysters and fish. (I’ve also missed our babysitters — a night without children, what a luxury!) But coming into Dubrovnik felt like coming home. The warm air is laced with sea salt and ribbons of cold. Boats — from huge cruise ships to tiny dingys — dot moorings along the undulating coast. There’s an actual coffee maker in our flat. There’s even Uber! We’ve been here a few days now, and I haven’t done much touring because I haven’t wanted to move around. I just want to live here. And recoup from being in the car with my children. I figure it will take about a month.
We’re staying in a neighborhood called Babin Kuk, a peninsula that juts off the mainland and faces several of Croatia’s 1200+ islands. Our first night, we walked about ten minutes into a pedestrian zone lined with restaurants where everyone was laughing and talking and generally enjoying life. Beer and wine were plentiful. There were palm and orange trees. At the end was the Adriatic, the sun blazing itself into the horizon, a long, shining goodbye.
I wish I could say the kids were good. But they weren’t, at least not at first. They were tired and hangry and needed several reminders on how to behave. They were kids. They ate a little and then snuggled in our arms because the evening air turned cold.
Ah, but the next day the sun came up quick and warm. The girls and I set out to find the nearest beach. I followed a trail that seemed to go downhill forever, not another person in sight except for some cars barreling down behind us. And then there it was, playground and all!
The girls played, skipped stones and dipped their toes in the water. It was incredibly peaceful, until I realized I had the only set of keys to the apartment and had locked in the husband, who was planning on running during a break in meetings. We found him pacing the small balcony, his texts suddenly exploding on my phone.
I suppose I can only please half my family at any given time.
I’ve been taking it slow here, smelling the fragrant flowers on the trees — orange and myrtle and laurel. I sit on the rocky beaches while the girls put their toes in the cold water, or in the case of Goose, sit fully clothed in the water. At least the air was warm enough to dry her pants while she sat in a soggy diaper. Every three seconds one of the children hands me a special rock to keep. The beaches are made of millions of special rocks.
On a walk back from dinner one evening, we took the long way by the shore and Dad and I pointed out the constellations and Venus rising bright in the east. “Venus is the goddess of beauty,” I said. “That’s what I was going to say!” exclaimed Goose, delighted to try out a new joke.
I wish I could say that it has been all peaceful, but the truth is the kids are exhausting me. Little Goose is full on terrible twos – lots of nos and screaming fits that seem to last for an eternity and I don’t know how to help her. I write one, maybe two sentences, and someone needs my attention, or something has been spilled or broken, or someone is fighting over markers. Squirrel constantly defies me while complaining she has nothing to do. I’m finding it’s easier to teach them letters and reading than it is to teach them to how to be good people. It’s also been difficult to teach them and try to go out exploring in the same day. Like their food, outings and lessons need to be divided into small portions, something bite sized they can take in and enjoy. Otherwise we’re all over-extended and exhausted.
Yesterday, instead of heading into Old Town or taking a tour, we just went down the block and played at the playground. We did little else because of how the kids were behaving. Bedtime is late, and they rise too early. Maybe free play time would help, I thought. And the fresh air. After her nap, Goose woke up and screamed and screamed that she wanted candy. When she calmed down, we went to the corner grocery story and got her fruit – cantaloupe and apples.
We are spoiled in the states. Our grocery stores are huge and any produce we want is readily available, grown in hot houses and in places where it isn’t indigenous and then plucked before fully ripe for shipping. In Sarajevo, I found avocados but they cost more than the expensive wine. Strawberries are non-existent right now. I haven’t yet mastered shopping at the local markets on the weekend, where seasonal produce is brought in from the surrounding farms. The cantaloupe yesterday was a surprise find, one the kids were excited about, and it changed everyone’s mood.
We ate the fruit along with pasta and green beans on the balcony. Dad and I had salad with olive oil and cheese, a bottle of local wine. Swallows began to swoop after the evening bugs, and the stray cats walked along the walls. It was simple and the kids could dance and sing to their favorite songs that I played over my phone. Little things, like this, make a home.