Petra’s Birthday (Part 2)

Each year, as most of you probably have gathered, only one of my kids gets a birthday party. Their birthdays are only 3 weeks apart, they have all the same friends, and I throw RIDICULOUS parties. Petra was a bit put-out that this was not her year, but she doesn’t understand that if I did birthday parties for both of them every year, hers would always be blah because I would be out of energy by the time I had thrown Silas one of my signature extravaganzas. I’m not good at pacing myself.

The deal is, though, that whoever does not get a party in a given year gets some kind of special experience instead. For Petra’s third birthday, for example, she got to ride a real horse. So it’s not all bad.

This year, Petra wanted to go on a fossil hunt. We were going to go to Dinosaur Park, in Maryland, but they’re only open two afternoons each month, and it turned out to be impossible to schedule. Instead, I got a tip from a friend that Blue Hole, in Bergton, is a pretty good fossil spot.

Petra, we have learned, is not one to mess around. She takes herself very seriously, and that is powerfully manifested in her intense fossil obsession. Although she would be beyond thrilled to find a real dinosaur fossil, she also is excited about other kinds of fossils as well.

An ammonite from a fossil kit

One of her birthday presents from me was a big box for her fossil work. I wrote “Petra’s Fossil Lab” on it, and it has space for all her fossil kits, books, tools, and specimen jars, as well as providing a work surface so that she can do her mini digs indoors.

This site in Bergton, from what I had heard, would mostly have small marine fossils from the ancient days when that area was the bottom of the sea. I was concerned that we wouldn’t find anything, or that what we did find would be disappointing for her, or that we (I) wouldn’t know what we were looking at.

There’s no way to find out if it will work but to try it, so we set off, armed with a copy of Fossil Collecting in the Mid-Atlantic States (borrowed from Marcella), a few plastic scrapers, and a rock chisel none of us really knew how to use.

We met up with Lynlee, Jack, and Violet at Blue Hole. I hadn’t ever been there before. It looks like a fun place to go in the summer, when the weather would be better for swimming. Not that my kids cared, they were up to their bellies in the freezing water, while I ineffectively protested that I hadn’t brought any towels or spare pants (I’m never the mom who remembers towels or spare pants…).

They had a great time climbing the rocks, observing the wildlife, and playing outside.

Here’s the craziest thing. I think we found some stuff!

People who know more about this, please correct me. And note I never took a geology class or anything like it. But I think we found some fossils. At first, we didn’t see anything, but when we sat in one spot and just picked through stones, we discovered all kinds of interesting shapes.

They might not be anything, but I think some of them are something. And we felt like freaking Indiana Jones, so whatever.

Petra also brought some plaster eggs (I think these ones?) that Silas had gotten her for her birthday. They have plastic dinosaurs inside. She let Violet, Jack, and Silas each dig one dinosaur. They were pretty thrilled with those, too.

One thing I love about being a parent is how my kids make me see the world with new eyes. I don’t mean some Victorian “magic of childhood” trope nonsense, I mean real things. Probably, there are fossils all over the place that I just didn’t see because I didn’t care and didn’t know what to look for. But now that Petra is super into this whole thing, I’m learning to observe the landscape around me in a new way. I’m seeing the layers of time and they feel newly present.

Five years or sixty-five million, it’s all sand and water.


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