We go to the beach with nothing more than a towel, a bottle of water and a bag for seashells.
No phones, no camera. No umbrella, chairs, cooler or sunscreen. We did a full on beach day like that a couple of days before and within 2 hours, the kids were ready to leave.
What do you mean you want to go back? When your dad and I used to go to the beach we’d set up camp and stay all day.
Expectations run rampant almost everywhere I go but they do not belong at the beach.
We’ll just bring what we need…a towel, a bottle of water…
The beach bag feels uncomfortably light. There’s so much more room. Maybe we should bring sunscreen, more towels, toys…what if, what if, what if?
The nearly empty bag is begging me to fill it but I resist the urge to burden us with more than we need for right now.
As I step out of the room, I see the small bag of seashells on the nightstand and grab it. I can’t stop myself and I feel a twinge of shame for needing just one more thing.
The beach is literally steps away. Our flip flops are soon discarded and our bag, so light it could blow away, is tossed in the sand. We’re free. The kids navigate through the seaweed on the beach like it’s radioactive and instantly start picking up tiny seashells in the wet sand.
Mommy, hold these!
Ah, that bag I grabbed makes sense now.
Later, three of us lay on the towel while our 5 year old daughter buries herself in the sand. I make a sand pillow for her head. Our 6 year old lays across his father’s body, using him as a lawn chair. I remember when he was a tiny baby and my husband would cuddle him to his chest, skin to skin, not moving a muscle for fear of waking him.
There was a time when I would panic at the thought of not having a camera with me. I’ve always taken ‘making memories’ literally. Dissociation has plagued me my entire life and without the mementos I’ve collected to prove that things really happened, it would be like they never did. Names and events I’d rather forget, moments of joy that I wasn’t fully present for, incomprehensible details that I wouldn’t believe otherwise…all proven in writing and in photographs.
These days, memories are more than pictures running through my mind. They can be smelled, tasted, felt. The gooey chocolate chip mint ice cream…the warm sand between my toes…the love pouring out of my heart…
This day at the beach does not need to be proven in a court of law. It can’t be reduced to its most salient details and catalogued. It’s so much bigger than a snapshot.
With arms sprawled, torso and legs buried in sand and sun shining on her face, my daughter says, “Promise me we’ll never forget this day.”