The chilly breeze is whipping my hair around. I step through the scratchy sand and lay down the beach bag. Twenty yards away, I can see my family splashing around in the surf. The waves are choppy and rough. Warmed by the sun, they play a game that involves running away from the approaching waves. They wait, and as the waves break, they scream and crash away from the explosions of water. Rarely do they escape, but it’s all in the game. The mixture of chilly breeze and April-cool Atlantic ocean water excites them but doesn’t bother them the way it would me. I sit in the breeze and shiver, wearing my long-sleeved shirt.
Around me I can hear the screech of seagulls and the rumble of another beachcomber’s kite. The sun makes me squint as I watch a woman examine the shoreline for rare shells. Years have gone by since a day at the beach was carefree for me, a former chubby child, overweight teen, and now, a mother with intractable post-partum extra-ness, and an overdeveloped sense of shame.
It’s not long before my youngest ambles over to me, asking for a towel and needing some extra warmth. At six years and change, he has finally acquired the girth to hold up his size-4 swim trunks. His newly shorn head feels like a downy baby duck against my face, as I wrap him in a striped towel and fit him in the nook between my arm and my body. Despite his age, he is the old soul of the family. I think about how this must be hard for him at times, but I am always grateful for the gift of his wisdom. Snuggled against the choppy breeze, we watch the pelicans as they fish in the distance. We wonder if we will see dolphins this early in the year.
Years of making questionable choices and then questioning those choices over and over again, and, finally, I have been rewarded with a child who loves me exactly as I am. This child always sees a full cup of joy, and knows that he can drink it, bottoms up, belch loudly, and we will still love him.
We are yin and yang. Just for today, I think, he is this size and this age. And I will only be this young today. I feel gratitude that my old-man six year old still wants to snuggle in with me, and I feel gratitude that we are here together. That my body lets me be here. That I can be a soft, warm, pillow for him, on this sandy, nippy, beach.
I push aside the knowledge, that for him, the Bionicles and recreational soccer will give way to electronic gadgets, girlfriends and varsity sports. I rub his back and we feel each others’ presence. We are warmer now together in the wind and the sun. The blue of the sky and the brightness of the vast ocean give us pause.
I push aside the constant mathematical equations, ending in a negative number, associated with our family finances. I push aside my Dad’s newly diagnosed cancer. I push aside the impending death of my grandmother, the fact that her life is crumbling before our eyes. The crisis in Japan. 3 wars. Why am I not a size 6 anymore? What to cook for dinner? Those things will still be with me when we leave this beach.
My work now is to be here in this moment with my little old man and his soft head and stretching-out body. And my heart feels open wide. To practice letting go of the cancer, the money, the death and the pain of life is what I need. Those things will catch me anyway, like the ocean waves in my kids’ game.
Just for today, we have each other and we are present.