The backyard swing never quite reached over the shed, but if feeling particularly daring, I would lift myself midair to catch a glimpse of the ocean, boathouses contently bobbing, ducks voicing delight at the prospect of a possible snack. The sun always fell a little too quickly, and I forever pleaded for just one more moment by the sea. As I grew, afternoons at my grandparents’ beach were replaced with late night swims among friends, the incandescent jellyfish alleviating the unsaid fear of complete and utter darkness. Never fully understanding my love for the pungent smell of low tide or the sadness of an empty, boat-free harbor, I did understand that no respite from the ocean would ever be permanent.
Warm summer winds blew in relatives from around the country, all settling at my grandparents’ seaside home. Each morning the cousins and I watched as my grandfather, the proud patriarch of an ever-growing clan, swam farther and farther into the harbor until becoming an infinitesimal speck amidst the waves. A desire to copy his grace, strength, and fearlessness was instilled in us on these early mornings, and it was not long before we too could cut through the choppy waters. We graduated from swimming to kayaking and exploring inlets and islands, living not by a watch, but according to the tides. I grew alongside this ocean, its boundaries expanding as I ventured farther from shore, relishing in the joys of freedom and exploration.
The backdrop of childhood will forever follow me, tagging along regardless of my destination. My days may be without the physical ocean, but not of its daily reminders, tying me to thoughts of family, friends, and community. The ocean and family are intertwined, memories of each complemented by the other. Deaths and births, marriages and divorces, triumphs and failures will continually transform my life, but the ocean will remain a constant force.
What I have learned from the sea propels me to encourage others to preserve what grants contentment and peace of mind without fear of straying from it. Test the waters of distant shores – appreciation for the familiar will only be heightened. Losing the ocean would be to lose my family but as hard as I may try, I will never fully shake the sand from my shoes, and I am thankful, for those grains of sand serve as a gentle reminder of the people and the place I cherish. This I believe.
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