I fell in love with my family all over again last week. The ocean is a bewitching wonder, with its frothing rhythm, its voice whispering in the morning when the horizon is blended to the atmosphere in a spectrum of white, and roaring by afternoon when the sky is a crisp blue against the dark gray of the sea. As soon as our feet are down in the yellow sand I forget all the bad things. I love to traipse across that great expanse toward the shoreline with my beach bag, knowing there’s a book inside, holding onto my hat with the wide, floppy brim.
It wasn’t Jack’s first time at the beach, but it was the first time since he was big enough to get around, since he possessed the potential to start enjoying the endless sand, the crabs, the waves, the neon buckets. Honestly, I had dreaded this vacation for that reason, as I have seen dozens of babies cry and squirm at sand in their chubby fists, then transferred to eyes and butt cracks and mouths. What if he was ornery at the beach? What if we were forced to spend the week indoors to avoid the carping? I told myself, this is parenting. You wanted this.
He loved it. Every day, in the morning and then again in the afternoon when he’d had a few hours to sleep away his sun-induced exhaustion, he played on the beach. He has, in fact, never been as content as he was there in front of the ocean. He toddled and crawled all over the sloping sand, splashed in the cold salt water, threw balls with his dad and cousins, posed like a Presidential nominee for photos. The only tears were in seeing someone else eating goldfish, and then when we took him inside. I was astounded, and then I thought, Why am I surprised? He is my own flesh and blood.
Mark and I sat together and watched him play. I read a lot, Mark dozed, we chatted some. We all sat around talking while the four boys played and played, and on the third day I thought to check my work email.
I went in one afternoon to put Jack down for his nap. His hair curls now, and after the salty air had tousled it, he was a delightful mess. His skin was starting to get a little brown, his cheeks were rosy, and he fell asleep in my arms within a minute. I thought How lucky am I? This is the family I get. I don’t think about that very often because I’m usually thinking about cleaning my house since we’re having people over for dinner, or finishing up the deposit for work before the bank closes at five o’clock, or the fact that I can’t be away from my son for more than forty-eight seconds because he’s at that stage where he will eat or destroy anything in his path and we haven’t fully baby-proofed. But at the beach, far away from the elements of life that add complication, stress and fear, I remember. My family is the marrow. (And Kyle, don’t think we didn’t miss you.)