The tide is coming in, driving the remaining beach goers back toward the dunes. The girls and I step into the waves. Holding hands, we let the water rush around our feet. Gwen screams with a mixture of delight and fear as the sea pulls at her tiny legs. I can see terror briefly wash over her features as she grips my hand tighter. She looks up at my face, as if wondering if I’m still there. I smile at her reassuringly, “I won’t let go of you Cookie.” Kate pins her baby legs to my hip and winds one arm through mine to hold on. She waves her chubby hand at the sea and wiggles her body in a delighted baby dance. Everything is good in this moment.
Grandma grabs her chair and sits, letting the water wash over her feet and cool her. Eventually, Kate and Gwen find an abandoned castle moat and climb in. As they spend their time running between the shallow waves and the sandy pit that will occupy them for the next two hours, we carefully watch them. They chase seagulls, squealing and shrieking with happiness. Tiny hands inspect seashells and drift wood. Kate’s tongue touches the sand and I see that she immediately regrets that decision. I watch my beautiful girls as they explore my favorite place.
As I stand observing, the sea beckons to me. I know that my beach going days are numbered. The hot sun is ready to take its leave and abandon us yet again. Much like me, the water will soon turn cold and gray. The sea is saying its yearly goodbye. I stand watching the waves, bigger than I’ve seen them all summer. They’re calling me to play. I walk forward and dive under a wave just as it begins curling over itself, ready to crash upon the heads of unsuspecting swimmers below. I pop up on the other side, unable to see the beach over the swell I’ve just escaped. I’m on the calm side. Huge swells lift me high into the air, and then drop me, hiding me. I can hear nothing but the sea around me and the faint screams of children as they run from the crashing surf.
Floating there, I feel exhilarated and truly free. I’m happy. I have a smile on my face that no one can see. As a wave pushes me upward, I see my mother carefully watching the girls and know that I have to leave my sanctuary and head back to the beach and the responsibilities that it holds. The sea begs me to stay, tempting me with a wild, happy ride and I lay back again. I hold my breath and dive underwater to listen to nothingness. I try to absorb the feel, taste and sound of it…of this moment, so that I can remember this feeling when the darkness begins to fall. The sea will turn dark as well. We share this trait.
In spring, as the sun begins to pull me out of my darkness, I’ll be drawn again to my ocean. Together, we will wash away the blackness. The sand will warm my feet and the waves will call me. My children will run, shrieking with delight. I’ll be alive again.