Childhood memories: Mother Ocean

Tuesday August 17, 2004 @ 03:18 PM (UTC)

When I was little, my parents would take me to the beach, and my father would carry me in a sturdy baby backpack along the grey, shimmering margin. I don’t know, truly, if these are my memories, or back-formed images tricked out of photographs and later trips. But the later trips — those I know I remember. My mother would wear a quilted aqua jacket which I privately thought looked like Princess Leia’s Hoth vest, and my father would wear his sturdy brown corduroy coat with the big knobbly buttons, just as he would to work outside in bad weather. The corduroy was large of wale, and made a sound like a giant zipper when he moved his arms.

My sister and I would wear little hooded sweatshirts or jackets, gathered tight around our faces to save our ears from the whistling wind, but there was no way to save our red noses from cold and dripping. Our bangs would tangle and fill with salt and sand as we dug and played. I loved to dig, and my sister, I think, loved to build, so she would set me to making the moat while she used the resulting pile to build a castle — one year, my parents bought her sand castle molds, and her castles rose perfect and tidy until the waters came.

I would dance along the waterline, spinning in the wind or the sun, just as I do now, child that I am, when I see the sea. I walked along the coast alongside my long-legged parents, and ran like an excited puppy at every tantalizing treasure half-exposed in the sand — the fragment of sand-dollar that might have been a whole, the bit of wood that might have been a timber of a wrecked ship, the jelly-fish that might have still been alive, and wriggling, and dangerous. I would write my name in the sand, and then, as I grew older and came to look upon the ocean not just as a vast, beautiful noise, a force that had tried to draw me in when tiny, a mélange of shimmers and shadings, but as the source of life, I would dawdle behind my parents and my sister as they headed up the beach away from the waterline, and write in the wet sand, “Mother Ocean.”


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