My nearly four-year old boy walked up to the ocean for the first time this trip and said in his sweetest inquisitive tone,
“Who makes the waves go, Mama?”
“Do shocks(sharks) make the waves go?”
My heart swelled. It really was a great question. And a hard one to answer. For a psychology major. One of the many reasons I love kids is because they help me rethink routine things. They look at the world differently, in a better way. With innocent, new, curious eyes and they unknowingly teach me to appreciate, and not overlook, this enormous, amazing life happening all around us. The everyday miracles. Like waves.
I have always loved the ocean. It brings back happy childhood memories. We used to drive from Tennessee to Florida for family vacations. My parents, six siblings and I would hang out all day, every day on the Florida beaches. I love the gentle, sometimes strong, yet always constant breeze on my face, messing with my hair. The distinct salty smell in the air. And also the smell of sunblock, tanning lotion, seaweed, and seashells. I can’t forget the calming repetitive sound of the waves hitting the sand. And the sensation of burying my feet in the hot sand. Over and over. These past few days, I have fallen in love again with the ocean. The beach. Only this time it’s a little different. It’s through the long, bleached tipped eyelashes of my three sons.
My oldest six-year-old boys could hardly close their eyes after the first day of playing in the ocean. Their excitement and bedtime back and forth talking was so precious. And nonstop.
“I just love the beach, Mom.”…….”I love fighting the waves.”..”I’m a wave fighter!”…..”I love when one wave gets me and I try to get up and another one gets me down.”
My body and soul both temporarily relax while watching my boys play in the ocean. In the waves. Nothing else matters. It’s easy to be present in those moments. The ocean gently and readily takes over your senses. All of them. I love watching my boys’ endless, spastic energy battling the steady energy of the ocean. They truly are a perfect match for each other. Both never stopping. Constant. Pure. Beautiful. Joyful. Back and forth. My boys jumping through the waves. Under the waves. Over the waves. Then slapping their tiny feet against the wet sand as they run back to the shore. It’s truly heaven on earth.
Selfishly, it makes me wish we had an ocean in our back yard. In Kansas. When my boys got all wound up, wrestling all over the place, dodging furniture, I could say, “Go play outside, guys. In the ocean.” I might not even mind the infinite amounts of sand all over the place. I would probably have to buy a better vacuum though. This seems like a pretty small price to pay to have the world’s greatest playmate in the backyard. Always. Every day.
I sat under the umbrella today with my youngest boy whose eyes hurt from the combination of the sunblock and salt water. And the over tiredness. It probably didn’t help that he repeatedly rubbed them, accidentally depositing sand into them to help them feel better. I tried to towel him off. That didn’t work. “My eyes! My eyes!” He kept saying/crying. I poured bottled water into them, against his will. Nothing seemed to help. It was nonstop crying. He was extremely tired from a long, sun-filled day and a late night traveling. I walked him over to the beach shower and he stood reluctantly under the cold water. I learned in a few minutes that his coping skills had been washed away with the waves. Long gone. It was the storm before the calm. Nothing was going to make it better. He needed a nap. Desperately. We walked back from the shower and he quickly fell asleep on my chest under the beach umbrella, with my sunglasses on. His three-year old body flopped down, deep breathing sleep, completely worn out. Non-stop swimming and keeping up with two big brothers will do that to a boy. In a heartbeat.
As my youngest slept on top of me on that beach chair, one of my older boys walked out of the ocean. With his snorkel mask resting on top of his forehead, he asked:
“Are you gonna get in, Mom?”
It was both a question and an invitation. And I graciously interpreted it as kind-hearted command. Yep! I wiggled out from underneath my little boy. My mother-in-law sat next to my sleeping boy while I gladly ran in to fight the waves with my can’t-get-enough-of-the-ocean-loving older boys. I cherished every moment of playing with them out in the salty water. Really salty water. I felt like a kid again. A kid-mom of sorts. Body surfing. Accidentally gulping salt water, then spitting it out. Several times. Rubbing my eyes. Dodging seaweed. Then grabbing and throwing that seaweed onto my husband’s back. Feeling moving things under my feet. Then, quickly, ahhhh, moving my feet somewhere else. Giving dolphin rides to Asher. Holding sand dollars, found by their daddy, in our hands, and watching and feeling their prickly hairs moving. Then, pushing them gently back down to the bottom of the ocean. The sun shining. And the sky happily revealed an entirely surreal shade of blue. Ocean blue. The clouds created perfectly fluffy odd shapes for imagining motorcycles and monsters. It was the absolute best.
These are the best kinds of days. The days that capture forever memories. The memories that you tuck away in a special place so that you always remember. No matter what. You bring them out frequently to talk about them. All of your senses overwhelmed kind of memories. That helps them never fade away. It’s memory teamwork on the part of your senses. Sense of smell helps touch who grabs taste and sound. Sight usually remembers but also gets a little help from the iPhone pictures. Since we left our camera at home. Accidentally. Luckily, we grabbed many perfectly memorable moments with our phones. To top it off, all of my boys awakened several new Florida freckles that I will happily look at and remember and appreciate our unexpected vacation.
We grieved and celebrated and remembered a man who lived life beautifully, my boys’ great Grampa Ryan. He loved calling them “rascals.” And he was the biggest rascal of all. We will always remember him and his impact on those he loved. We gratefully dedicate our ocean memories to his ocean loving soul. I think he was looking down on us or even out there with us. Laughing. Loving. And truly living life to the fullest. One of my boys lost a pair of goggles in the waves. We decided that a dolphin or sea turtle may be wearing them around deep in the ocean. They wouldn’t fit a shark. Hopefully, they can hold onto them until the next time my giddy wave fighters return.
We love you and miss you, Grampa Ryan. And we will always, always remember you, you big Rascal.❤️