I've decided that I would really like to have a beach house some day. After nearly a week in Savannah for a work conference - a hard, stressful week, with late nights of work and tears about being separated from Dora - we've come to Folly Beach, South Carolina for a quick weekend visit.
Stepping onto the sand last night, as the sun was setting and the beach was taking on my favorite evening glow, I felt whole and relaxed and complete, watching Dora squeal in delight and play with her Daddy in the sand. It's like coming home - all of us together in a place where the only thing that matters is each other.
I have always loved the ocean, having grown up vacationing there as a child. To me it has always brought a sense of solace and joy that I feel in very few other places in the world. In fact, it gives me a feeling that is indescribable - all I can say to explain it is that I know it when I feel it, and I can't get enough of it. Now that we live closer to the beach, it has become easier to find our way here more regularly. This time we're here because Brian's band has a gig. We've been to the beach for my work, too, and just for vacation. This means that, usually, we've been blessed with more than one beach trip per year, and for that I know we are very fortunate.
Visiting the beach has taken on a new level of importance, though, now that we have Dora. This is not the first situation in which I have experienced the world again through her eyes, but it may be my favorite. The first time we took her to the beach, Dora was 4 weeks old. Aside from obsessing over the potential for sunburn nearly the entire time, I was overjoyed that we could begin our own memories (and hers, by extension) of family beach vacations right away. I cherish the photos of tiny Dora on the beach, crying when we stuck her little baby toes into the edge of the waves. Every time we go to the beach, Dora is at a different stage and enjoys different things. Last year it was sand, this summer it was tidal pools, this weekend it was the waves. She was so enthused about the waves today, she squealed with delight as they splashed into her, even though the water was chilly. It appears that my girl is going to love the beach as much as I do, and to me that is just fine.
Truth be told, our becoming parents has a lot to do with the ocean, too. I have always known I wanted to have a baby - for as long as I can remember that is what I have wanted. I knew I wanted to marry someone who wanted kids, too - and I made it clear from the beginning with Brian that having a family was important to me. After a couple of years of marriage, we had been talking a lot about getting pregnant - my job was going well, we liked Asheville, Brian's piano studio was doing well and he had a steady band gig with Orange Krush. There was never any doubt that having children was something we would try to do, but three years ago when we went to the Isle of Palms with friends and watched little Isaac run around on the beach, we decided we wanted to have that, too. As Isaac ran by, Brian said to me, "I want that". And I agreed.
Now that I have my own little sand flea, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Dora's enjoyment of the beach evolve. I'm not sure there is anything cuter than a toddler in a bathing suit, wearing a sunhat and carrying a bucket and shovel. I cherish seeing her play in the sand, hearing her delighted squeals in the surf. I think back to my own childhood beach trips, and I think of my mom watching me in my little solid-color Dove tank suits, laughing and getting blonder and tanner by the minute. I know she loved going to the beach- we did it every single year no matter how hard my parents had to work to make it happen. I always thought she loved it for the same reasons I do - the walks in the morning, the sand against your skin, the air and the breeze, that indescribable feeling that all of that brings to you. I'm sure it was all those things, but now I know it was more than that. It was the squeals and the sandcastles and the sunhats, the memories and the photographs and seeing all of it through her kids' eyes. It was being in a place where the focus could be completely on the family, without distraction or worry, all of us stepping on to the sand together in a place where the only thing that mattered was each other.