If you’ve ever traveled out of your home state, or country if you’re the international traveling type, you may or may not have noticed how different the sky looks from place to place. For me, it’s the first thing I notice. When I go to the mountains, I notice the difference more at night. The stars seem so close that I could almost reach up and steal them one by one. The sky is so clear; I really can’t keep track of how many are up there. At home, I can count them for you because the city lights are so bright that only the brightest stars shine through. I remember the stars the most because most of my traveling is to the mountains, back to my roots in the hills of Tennessee. But even when I ventured north a couple years ago, they too, had the advantage of clearing so that every shooting star could be counted. A million little diamonds, just waiting…taunting me. “Count me,” they say. “Count me if you can.”
But I went south this time and put my memory to the test. It’s been almost a decade since I last went south, but the handful of times I’ve been there, I remember the clouds. It’s strange how the lower the elevation gets, the closer the clouds seem, but they do. And I know that they are not, they’re just bigger…a lot bigger. The sky is bluer, the sun is more orange and golden, and overall it’s just more beautiful. Even during a thunderstorm it seems inviting.
For years I have longed to sit on the beach and just listen to the ocean. I have waited for that feeling of smallness. In my insanely busy life, I have waited for my moment to just exist without any expectations. I finally got it this past week. I watched my babies step their little feet into that giant body of water for the first time, and after the initial panic set in and stepped aside, my heart was flooded with joy. My son, only three years old, fell in love with the ocean and everything about it. He didn’t mind the saltiness of the water; he let it crash over him without a second thought with a smile beaming so boldly, I’m certain it was brighter than the sun. He found the many joys and comforts of the sand, building castles, burying his feet, and watching the grains fall through his tiny little stick like fingers.
My five year old found favor in the very hungry wild life and had a ball chasing them away from our impromptu picnic. She would run and squawk, and at times I wasn’t sure if it was her or the birds because she got so good at it. She also developed affection for the water and wanted to spend as much time as possible in it. Her favorite pastime was looking for sea shells to put in our shadow box. She will deny that she had any fun at Disney (untrue, of course), but she can’t contest the delight she felt any time she was within a hundred yards of some crashing waves.
My older kids probably surprised me the most. As they get older, it’s getting harder and harder to impress them, and as their mom, I can’t help but want to impress them and have them say “hey, that was fun. I want to do it again.” But it was their first time in the ocean as well and I think they were as equally as entertained as the babies were. They aren’t nearly as vocal about it, of course, but their lingering in the water and absenteeism from castle building tells me all I need to know. My oldest son, who’s probably the most nonchalant kid, developed this very morose look about him when it was time to leave. And while he refuses to admit that he would ever want to live there, I’m certain all I’d have to do is ask if he’d want to visit and he’d be the first one in the car waiting to leave.
I’m thankful that my daughter, who will be fourteen in nine days, still experienced the beach with her childlike splendor. We spent days prior to leaving looking for the perfect bathing suit(s) and I was going over every horrible possibility in my head. I was not ready for her to want to be “attractive” and looking for whatever. I lucked out. I realize this may be the last year she still wants to remain a child, but I’m willing to be patient for as long as she’s willing to not grow up.
I thought about all of these things while I was sitting on the beach watching my family play in the ocean. While the world kept spinning around me (and I know it did because I watched the sun set), my world had stood still so I could live in that moment and take it all in. And then it dawned on me…I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my husband. I had finally found a man who loved me enough to take care of me and his family, who loved us so much he wanted to spend time with us, who loved us so much he wanted to see us happy. Not that I didn’t know that before, but when you sit next to the ocean and you’re thinking of how small you are in comparison, it really puts things in perspective. You think of things you don’t normally think about—and then realize, maybe you should.