I'm going to be very upfront and let it be known that I'm an ocean girl. Put me in a place with water, sand, and waves, and I'm one satisfied being. I could very easily live the rest of my life as a beach bum, and be perfectly content.
This gravitation towards the oceanic life is most definitely brought about by some of the most- probably THE most- happy memories I have of my childhood. Once a year, my parents would truck the entire family from Northern Ohio to Florida to visit my dad's family. Our visits were full of orange picking, pool swimming, and of course lots and lots of trips to the beach.This was me, about twenty two years ago. I was doing the activity that I loved most in all of the world. Collecting seashells. And yes, I rocked those flip flops! Today if you had been at the beach on Hutchinson Island FL, you would have seen that same little girl, twenty two years older, bent down in the sand with a red bucket, examining the treasures that have washed ashore. My hair has turned darker, and my sense of style is.. well, better (no more bright blue shorts and pastel flip flops!) but other than that, I can't think of much that would be different about this picture had it been taken today.
I suppose the biggest difference would have been the toddler riding along merrily on my back. He seemed just as content as me, being lulled into the rhythm of the waves rolling in and out. The breeze was cool, but the sun was warm, which has quite a calming effect. It wasn't long after our toes hit the sand that I delved into my childhood task, which so many years ago had seemed like the most important thing anyone could undertake. I stood with my husband and child for a few moments, studying the high wave caps. Scanning for pelicans and other marine birds. But shortly my gaze dropped down to those precious treasures that lay right where the dry sand meets the wetness of the tide. I suddenly found myself using the names that my siblings, cousins, and I had conjured for these most prized shells. "Look, an olive shell!" and "Ooooh, a turkey wing, those are cool." or "oh, there's the perfect butterfly clam!" Now, I have no idea what the proper names of these particular kinds of shells are, and I have no idea how we came up with them. I have a distinct memory of a pocket sized book, that had a blue cover, that gave the names for different shells. I am imagining that our names were the childish renditions of names we saw in the book, or we simply called them what they reminded us of. As I was calling these things out with great glee to my husband, and I went to tell him "I need the bucket out of the beach bag!" the look on his face told me how far I had reverted back to my childhood.
As we walked further down the beach, I realized that I am not the only person sent reeling back to youth by the sight of sea shells washing up onto the beach. I saw the same look, the same feeling of wonder, on every person we met walking up and down the beach. Everyone between the ages of two years to eighty two years. It warmed my heart to realize that some things have no age boundaries, and there will always be a little something, some place in this world, that keeps the inner child alive, no matter how old the external body grows.
Jonah enjoyed his first visit to the beach. He loved when I would squat down, letting the water come around my toes and ankles, and just out of his reach. Every time a wave would come, I would squat down and we would both squeel with glee as the water came rushing all around us. The ocean is still too cold this time of year to swim in, and I could feel the briskness welling up around my calves as the water soaked through my pants. But the sun was warm enough that I was only cold for a few moments. Hearing my son laugh, while we walked along the beach, was put on my list of "life's happiest moments." It's on the list, right in between breastfeeding Jonah for the first time, and hearing Daryl's wedding vows.
About forty minutes into the walk, Jonah became very mezmerized by the waves. I noticed him watching the ocean very intently, and gradually his eyes started getting heavier and heavier. Soon, I felt him snuggle his head into my shoulder blade, and I knew he had drifted off to sleep. The sounds of the ocean, the reliability of the waves coming in, and out, and in and out. It has a hypnotizing effect. I could have lay down in that exact spot and fell into a deep sleep myself.
Slowly we made our way back to the car. We stopped at the burger stand for a nice lunch overlooking the beach, and drove back to our hotel.