September 2, 2009

through new eyes

IMG_3033This summer, like so many Americans, we made our annual voyage to the beach. For ten days, we planned to soak in the sun, play in the sand, and simply enjoy time away from the daily demands of life at home. Even though I grew up near the beach, I honestly don’t think there was a summer in my childhood that didn’t include a vacation on the water. For people throughout the world, there is something about time at the beach. Life seems simpler, calmer. Stresses melt away with the sound of the surf meeting the shore.  It’s relaxing and exhilarating all at once.
In recent years, our annual trip finds us on the coast of South Carolina, in a small town my brother-in-law and his family call home. My husband Kevin and I chose the beach they live near as our wedding location. Who could ask for a better backdrop for reciting lifelong vows than the edge of life-giving water and the site of the renewing tide? Since that day, Kevin’s family has grown considerably. With a whole new crop of Phelan’s, beach trips have become a mainstay as a way to reunite when school is out and the sun sticks around for a bit longer.  Our special beach is the perfect place.
And so this year we found ourselves headed to the coast with one small difference. We were bringing Annie P – toddler Annie P. Last year, Annie didn’t spend much time in the sand. She was still napping frequently and had just learned to sit. The inside of the beach house and a trip or two to the pool made up her first trip to the beach. Not so this year. As a beach lover, as this trip approached I grew nervous. I am the type of person who can sit from sunrise to sunset, reading a book (or two) and staring out to sea. What if Annie didn’t share my opinion? What if she hated the sand between her toes and found the waves alarming, even downright scary? I prepared as best I could. We came armed with an arsenal of beach toys, sunscreen in many forms, floats, snacks, and even a pair of water shoes in case she simply couldn’t stand the sand. If it took downright bribery, Annie P. was going to hang at the beach.
I’m sure you can guess where this is going. That’s right. All my fears were for naught. From day one, the girl was sold. For ten days we watched her jump in the surf, chase sandpipers, dig in the sand, and run along the shore as fast as her little legs would take her. Unbelievably, we only hit the pool a couple of times the entire trip. I personally found the daily trip to the beach exciting and new, like I was seeing it for the first time.  Through my daughter, I saw the simple beauty and raw excitement the seashore brings. I used all of my senses to take it in, as I knew she was. It had been a long time since I played in the sand. It really is a great time.
Although we were sad when the trip ended, I am pleased with the outcome.  Sure, the toys and snacks helped. But when we returned home, I found the water shoes at the bottom of a bag, seldom used and long forgotten. Beach lovers never mind the sand between their toes.