The sun awakes the ocean as it pierces the horizon. The waves turn gold, as the sky becomes a palate of orange and blue. The air is plump with moisture, and a soft warm wind that seems to announce a new day at Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.
I watched this phenomenon as I swayed effortlessly on our withered hammock. I had not yet visited the beach but I was already covered in sand and salt. I stared out at the ocean, roaring with pride, and decided to enter a different world. I stood in front of the weather beaten doors thinking. Thinking about what awaited me just beyond this weary entrance, and about how I could possibly live without entering these doors summer after summer. The blue house seemed to groan as I pushed the door open. The air conditioning quickly greeted me as I entered, and I no longer heard the soft murmur of the waves. My cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, 55 in total, talked and laughed as I carefully shut the door. I was welcomed with a myriad of hellos and good mornings. I stood for a moment watching my amazing family. Some ate breakfast, still half asleep. Others were receiving sunscreen bathes, being lathered head to toe with the thick creamy lotion. Still others were playing tag or pretending they were animals.
It was then, as I watched this chaos, dodging two year olds and empty cereal boxes that I finally understood. I believe in family. I believe that the key to understanding oneself is rooted in the appreciation and awareness of one’s family. Family is more than where we come from, it defines us. I see myself in the watchful eye of my grandma, the vivacious smiles and giggles of my six-year old cousins, and in the wisdom and wit of my aunts and uncles. Each person defines me, each person is a part of my being, and I too am a part of them. I am an amalgamation of each, a mixture of dispositions, ideas, and emotions. Without them I could never find self-awareness, I would struggle to understand who I am and what I stand for. Family, immediate and extended, offers us comfort and support, unconditional love, and an environment in which we can genuinely be ourselves.
I recognized that the disorder in this great blue house on this tiny island, thousands of miles from home, is the only place I feel at peace. It is the only time I feel completely sure of who I am and the only occasion where I feel entirely safe and secure. And as I was reflecting I was interrupted by the question I never grew tired of, “Carly, do you want to go to the beach?” they said as they stared at me with their enormous blue eyes. There was only one answer to this question, and they already knew what my reply was going to be by the smile on my face and the excitement in my eyes. These mornings are the best I have ever awakened to.
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