I walked along the dirt path next to the fishermen’s shacks yesterday and listened to waves roll in and crash, roll in and crash. Steady. And soothing. I soaked in every ray of sun, not only understanding the gift of the day but also knowing of its impermanence. No such day lasts forever, and it belongs to everyone who’s blessed to be living in its temporary perfection.
And I was there – with some of the people I used to be.
I met myself there on the beach – maybe ten and awkward – in every wave worth jumping over and in every bucket of sand I could fill. I saw me shivering and goose-bumped on a sandy towel, arms clenched close to my sides. I played handball with my uncle, restaurant with my sister, and looked for starfish with my cousin.
Every summer when I was a kid, my Nana told and retold the stories she knew about the summer “cottages” just up the hill overlooking a cliff with a rocky view of the Atlantic below. We called them the mansions. I was as awed by their size and romantic grandeur yesterday as I was when I was a girl.
Sitting there on the beach yesterday, I missed my Nana – gone just a year now – and I remembered her love of the ocean. She loved those islands just out there on the horizon, so close that on a clear day, I could reach out and pluck one of them from the ocean – just for her.
When she tucked me in at night – under stiff bleached sheets and scratchy pink woolen blankets, Nana told me about the ocean she loved. She told me about lighthouses and undertows and tides. Foghorns sound lonely, she said, but they save sailors from crashing into the rocks. She said buoys in the harbor are colored to name the fisherman they belong to.
I walked the beach yesterday with the younger mother in me. We gathered periwinkles and broken clam shells and smooth grey rocks. We searched endlessly for a glint of sea glass and remembered the days we spent running after fast and free toddlers on open stretches of sand.
I watched other parents laugh with their children and struggle with their children and build the most amazing sand castle – ever – with their children. Those parents shook sand out of towels, rinsed buckets and tiny toes, and gathered the whole family up for an end-of-day ice cream cone. The best ice cream cones come at the end of a perfect beach day.
Yesterday, I was alone with some of the people I used to be. We got along well because we knew each other and, a little surprisingly, liked each other just fine. We’re comfortable with each other – knowing as we do – all of each other’s secrets, dreams, and memories. The mistakes we made don’t matter much anymore and we’ve all forgiven, loved, lost, learned, and hoped so much and so hard over the years – that what matters most – is today.
I’m not the person I was when I was them, but I am the person I’ve become because of them. I know them, and they know me. They helped shape the me I am but also make sure I remember the sand I threw at my brothers, the kites I flew with my college friends, and the Tonka trucks I pushed around at low tide with my sons.
I sat there in the almost luxurious solitude of me, watching the waves shimmer and the gulls dance in the foam. And I was at peace.