Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tales of Babies and Beaches

I don’t want you to think I’ve spent the past week simply basking on the beautiful beaches of North Carolina. This trip to paradise has been tempered by the process of helping to pack, move and unpack our younger son and family as they decamped to a new Carolina city and job. Part of the deal, though, was a chance to feed a sand-and-saltwater jones so intense that we sometimes spontaneously burst into Beach Boys tunes at the sight of a largish mud puddle.
Some of those daily dips were more like medical emergencies, resulting from a killer combination of ultra-hot, super-humid weather and an impressive collection of boxes, couches, mattresses and more. And more.
But back to the beach.
My love affair with the Atlantic Ocean harkens back to a long-ago family vacation to Washington D.C., that included a day at Ocean City, Maryland. It was on that trip that I discovered that some swimming water--unlike the muddy creek-fed lakes of my experience--could be kind of clear. And that waves could be produced by something other than my older brother. And that sand and shells and driftwood and all the other finds a real beach can offer are true treasures to be collected, saved and remembered.
We raised our children to love the water and, especially, the broad, beautiful beaches of the Eastern Seaboard and mighty Lake Superior. It is, therefore, more than amazing to bring grandchildren to the same experience. One morning this past week sticks in my mind as a perfect time to have spent with them. We got up early that morning, shoveled some cereal down 3-year-old Cyrus and year-and-a-half-old John, and hit the road towards a favorite beach of ours, located at the northern tip of a series of barrier islands and beach towns that feature wonderful names like Atlantic, Topsail, Emerald Isle, Salter Path and Surf City.
It was just a year ago that our daughter-in-law told us, “You’ll be chasing him up and down this beach next year at this time.”
And she’s right, as the tiny babe in arms has turned into an unstoppable tow-haired boy-baby in just one year.
But here’s the thing.
We’ve discovered over the years that there’s a certain rhythm that occurs between beaches and babies.
Keep them safe and keep them close, but stand back, too, and marvel at nature’s own heartbeat. The crashes and splashes of the waves contrast with gentle offshore breezes and warm tidal pools to create sights, sounds and sensations that just don’t occur anywhere else.
It’s all very exciting. But calming, too, as the never-ending rocking of the waves and the vast expanse of the beach and ocean remind us all of things bigger and more powerful than ourselves.
A good lesson for a baby.
Not a bad lesson for a grandfather, either.

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