The memories of my life are so in step with the rhythm of the ocean that the thought of living anyplace where I couldn’t get to the coast within an hour or two makes me anxious.
My grandparents lived at the beach. My grandmother especially loved the water. It’s one of the reasons my grandfather choose to build their home next to the ocean. The salt air is good for the soul. Maine waters are chilly even in the warmest of summer days but my grandmother was undeterred and continued to swim in the ocean every summer until her health waned. She was happy at the ocean.
My mother spent her school years “in town” and not at the beach. Her grandmother and aunt lived there during those years. They were still living there when I arrived on the scene. My only memories of my visits to the house during those years were of the disturbingly vivid portrait of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns as blood streamed down his face. It hung prominently in their living room. It made an impression on me.
Eventually my grandparents moved back to their home at the beach.
I was spoiled with ready access to the salt air growing up. We lived about six miles away from my grandparents and I could go to the beach whenever the mood struck. It didn’t require planning or preparation. I could stop in for an hour or for the whole day. On ambitious days, I would ride my bike down, arriving sweaty and exhausted but happy.
In my teen years, my grandparents’ spot wasn’t cool enough and I’d venture to Old Orchard Beach with friends. Better to see and be seen. There was the beach, the boardwalk and the bustle and energy I wanted then.
But that faded and I returned to the more familiar spot.
For all my love of the ocean, I’ve never had the desire to take an beach vacation. Sure, I made it down to Cozumel for spring break one year, but that really wasn’t for the blue waters. And I’ve done a day here or there in glorious beach destinations like Sanibel Island, Captiva, and Catalina Island. All beautiful. None of them my beach.
I moved to Massachusetts for graduate school and stayed there after I got married. Our girls were born there. While the ocean was accessible, it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t home.
We wanted to come back to Maine. I had started looking for a lake house in Maine as soon as I moved away, knowing I could never afford ocean front. Shortly after our youngest was born and seven years after I began my search, we found our camp on the lake.
We traveled back and forth most weekends, settling into a relaxed rhythm. I started spending summers in Maine with the girls enjoying both lake and ocean life. Now doubly blessed, it didn’t take long before we realized our hearts were in Maine and we returned full time a few years later.
My girls got to experience the ocean the way I had as a child. Joyful, unhurried days with their grandparents keeping a watchful eye. My Mom and her sister now lived in my grandparent’s house. It had changed physically, with a renovation making it more comfortable for two couples to share, but it was still our ocean.
The image of my mom standing guard, hands on her hips as her granddaughters swam in the ocean stays with me so vividly that I included it in her obituary. While we love the ocean, we respect its power. A riptide will pull you away from shore easily. She didn’t have to worry. Their dips were usually quick before they would come running back, happy to be playing on the shore. Beach sand, buckets, and shovels keeping them entertained for hours.
The fourth generation to enjoy our family escape.
We’ve celebrated birthdays and weddings at the beach. Our dogs have run along the shore and swam in the water, less concerned with the temperature then their humans. We’ve had clambakes and eaten so many lobsters. We’ve walked along at low tide, collecting sea glass and sand dollars. We’ve visited during stormy weather, witnessing the ocean’s power. We’ve had quiet moments with just a few of us and more lively ones with extended family. We’ve had joyful days filled with laughter and devastatingly sad ones filled with tears.
Each new family member has felt the pull of our ocean. It’s magic. I know a house is just a house but when you fill it with decades of memories it becomes part of who you are.
In my first A to Z Challenge, I blogged about one of my other family memories at the beach in my post Q is for Clam Digging for Quahogs
Why does it bring me bliss? The lifetime of memories and shared experiences in this one little spot along the vast ocean is tied to who I am. It’s not the biggest, the warmest or the most beautiful but it’s our piece of the ocean. It’s our special place.
Do you have a place that is meaningful to you like this spot is to me?
I’m participating in a Blogging A-Z Challenge for April 2020. I will be posting new content every day this month except most Sundays. Each post is associated with a letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. My theme for the challenge is Bliss. To read more of my A to Z posts from this year, click HERE.