If I search back into the deepest files of my brain, for my oldest memory, I come out with a scoop of sand. The texture of sand in my mouth, between my teeth, and on my lips. I can remember it being neither pleasant nor uncomfortable. It was just there and it was warm and it tasted of salt. My childhood days all had the backdrop of the ocean and the drone of the sea. Part of my heart is broken up here in the hills and part of it is free. I don’t want to live in a place so crowded and busy. And all at once I feel so unsettled. It always seems so silent when I stand outdoors (alone of course), and only when I let myself remember, do I realize it’s because it’s the absence of the crashing waves that makes it so quiet.
When Miles was very small, and we discovered his intense fear of those exact sounds, I pursed my lips and didn’t let it penetrate my heart. Once my father watched him drop to his knees and sob to the heavens when I went in for a quick dip alone. Seeing me be swallowed up by something so vast triggered something deep and terrifying in his little soul and he wailed a wail so long and guttural that we have never heard since. He was not yet two. Each year we assumed would be the year he would come around and jump over the knee-high foamy surf with all the other sun kissed children. And each year he didn’t. My family cajoled and coaxed. They bribed and pleaded. Something about it was just confusing to a bunch of folks with salt water running through their veins.
This past week something clicked in my little boy. We went out on a boat ride with my brother to catch a bucket full of bait fish and took a detour to pirates cove. Big rocky arms curved around our boat keeping the waves at bay while I snorkeled around. Miles peered down at me in the dazzling silver water, interested and amazed to see a person with lungs that breathe air, belly down in the sea with only a tube popping out, looking at the mysteries below. He sat on the edge of the ladder for some time, thinking and thinking and thinking. Life jacket firmly buckled on, at last he took the plunge. He bobbed up and down with a sort of desperate, giddy, breathless smile, kicking his lean little limbs with all his might. We all squinted and grinned right along with him.
When we headed to the beach later that afternoon, the switch was lifted and with it all his ocean inhibitions. He frolicked all day long. When my sweet friend called out to him as he boogie boarded across the waves that it looked like he was having a lot of fun, he responded, “Yes! And its relaxing too!”, in only the way that Miles could.
I stood ankle-deep in the thick, salty sea with a teary smile and so much love as I watched my boys for the next five days. I watched the littlest babe perhaps gather up his very first memory, maybe just like mine? And I watched my oldest gather up all the strength he could find. And Rowan…. of course Rowan followed suit and went in with his big brother and kept up the pace quite well.
Oh these boys. These sweet boys. On their own timeline. With their own goals and their own way of doing things. It reminds me that they are indeed their own and I only get to witness and guide. It is a magical thing to see; This growing of brains and bodies.
And now we are home hauling in 20 pound zucchinis and wishing for pigs to feed them to, along with vases and vases of flowers that escaped mercifully the gnawing teeth of the Japanese beetles. All the while we are savoring the little patches of sand in our ears and caked to our scalps.