Growing up in the Midwest, I dreamed about summers on the beach. Sure, we had the Great Lakes, but in my mind that wasn’t quite the same. Not to mention my childhood home(s) were nowhere near any lake. I was landlocked in suburbia with the closest body of water located in the neighbor’s pool where I spent many days floating, planning my future life which would most likely be lived out in some quaint coastal New England town.
And while many of my childhood dreams did not come to fruition, living in the quaint coastal New England town certainly did. Some dreams become requirements and living near the ocean was a pull that I could not resist. It’s like I had a homing device that lead me to a place that I always knew would be home.
After living here far many more years than I’ve lived anywhere else, I identify myself as a New Englander. No other validation is needed because one could argue that my heart was here long before my feet were.
Now I have four kids who have been birthed in New England. And what I so desperately wanted growing up is quite literally in their own backyard. Whether they are on a school bus or just taking a ride with me to pick up a gallon of milk, the ocean is part of their daily life.
It’s either to the right of us or to the left at any given moment. Still breathtaking to me, but ordinary to them. A blasé attitude that I battle with every day, trying to teach them that not everyone has this kind of natural beauty surrounding them. That they need to stop and take this view in once in awhile, appreciating the gift that it is.
I’m not very successful with this lesson, mind you. I guess it’s hard to appreciate what you have when you are born into it. Maybe if I took them for a two week vacation back to the middle of the mitten Michigan (not near water), they would better comprehend the lesson I’m trying to teach.
This summer was a really good example of this lack of appreciation. I’ve asked the girls numerous times if they would like to go to the beach for the day. This is usually met with a shrug of the shoulders and a glazed over look of indifference. But yesterday I made the executive decision, packed the requisite snacks/towels/sunscreen and ordered them into the car. We were going to the beach.
With Leela off of the crutches and out of the brace, there was no reason not to go out and enjoy probably the last beautiful beach day of summer. And truth be told, I did this more for myself than I did for them. They might not appreciate the gift of living in this special place, but I still do. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on how blessed I am to live here.
When we first got to the beach, the girls were a little cranky. And I’m not entirely sure why because there was no reason for their sullen mood. Quite possibly it’s the anxiety of going back to school. Or maybe it’s because I forced them away from their Minecraft session. I’m not really sure, but for the first hour they weren’t there because they wanted to be which made me wonder if this was even worth it. It’s no fun being somewhere when the majority of your party doesn’t want to be there.
But after awhile the sun and sea started to warm up their spirits. The sisters went off on a search for sea glass and met a new friend along the way. Five hours later we were the last two families on the beach. The sun was going down, a chill setting into the air, but the kids were still dancing in the waves with their new friend.
And when I announced that we absolutely had to go. No more warnings. Get into the car or you are sleeping here. They actually asked if that was an option as there is a campground onsite.
No, I said. We can come back tomorrow. Actually, we can come back any day we like. All you have to do is ask because this is ours.
On the way back home the girls were limp like noodles. Completely drained of all energy but infused with the glow of summer.
With her head leaning against the window, hair full of sand and salt, Shannon said to me “Our new friend was on vacation. She said that she never gets to see the ocean. That’s sad. I thought everyone had it.”
That lesson I’ve been hammering into their heads all of this time was finally driven home by a chance encounter with a tourist.
Parenting is interesting. As a mother I strive to teach my kids all the things that I should. To be appreciative. To be courteous. And especially to be kind. But sometimes the very best lessons in life are taught by others. And I think that those lessons are the ones most readily received.