The Gulf

I watched my children play in the sand while a storm came in, never quite reached us, but left us a rainbow that spanned the trees and the beach and gulf, all the way to the horizon.

I listened as my children discussed whether the pot of gold was in the forest or in the deep blue sea, and where did the leprechaun live?

I walked the beach at sunset and found the largest shell i have ever found in my whole life.

I sat in my beach chair, and thought about how many times I had sat on the Gulf in my life and thought about how small it made me feel.

I petted my dog’s velvet ears on the screened porch while having drinks with my husband and listening to music.

I had coffee with my sister while our kids played trains and chatted happily with each other.

I poured tequila at nine a.m.

I watched as the kids ignored the big ocean for the small tide pools and then rolled around in the mud. I didn’t worry a bit about the sand and the dirt.

I chased my nephew on the sand, and I clutched my hat to my head as the wind tried to take it from me.

I held hands with my little girl and walked on the docks. We dangled our feet over the edge, watching as sailboats came in, and we waved at the people and the dogs on board. We saw a crab on a pylon and we laughed at him.

I waited for hurricane waves to carry me in, and I scraped my knees on a thousand shells, and the ocean turned me upside down like I was in a washing machine. And I liked it and I laughed a true laugh and my raw, bruised knees felt good. It still feels good. I hope it doesn’t go away.

I stepped barefoot up a hundred iron spiral steps. I heard them clang and I heard the wind whistle through them. I got my bearings. I yearned to climb even farther and see how it all works. I saw beauty in the way things used to be made, and I saw that they could last.

I promised myself that I would try to convince Todd to let me paint the porch ceiling blue.

I wondered what it would be like to live 250 yards from the sea, in a time with no electricity, no gas, no artificial light, no corner grocery. I wondered what it would be like to live there and batten down the hatches. I wished I could have seen it then.

I gazed on an American flag flapping sharply in the wind, and I thought how very lucky I am.

I watched my husband stand alone in the ocean, staring out to sea. I thought to myself that he is the most wonderful person I have ever met, and that is the way it should be.

I pointed out pelicans flying in a perfect vee to my nephew and he pointed to them, too, and then looked at me to make sure I saw.

I saw my children and their cousin laugh and splash in the ocean, and I saw them put an arm around him when a big wave came, and I knew for a moment that I was doing something right.

I sat and waited until the last moment for the storm, a great wall of dark gray, to come ashore, and I got soaked, and I didn’t care. I danced under the awning with my husband and my children while it rained. And then we went right back out for more.

I sat on the beach with only my husband and we talked and laughed and listened to music in the sun.

I napped in the afternoon and woke to the voices of my family.

I felt sunbrushed and ate too much pizza.

I sat steps from the bay, and I watched her people gather, and I listened to their sweet southern voices. I sat next to my son and waited for the sun to set over the water. I listened to the pop of roman candles from the beach behind me, and I watched red and white fireworks pop up in the distance over the cape. I waved my flag and I watched a parade of lighted ships. I wondered what it would be like next year.

I heard the gasps of children and the sighs of grandmothers. I thought of the night many years ago now that I sat with my grandma, Alzheimer’s really starting to get her, and we watched fireworks, and a tear rolled down her cheek, and she whispered, “They’re beautiful,” and “I’ve never seen fireworks before.” And I knew she had seen them before, and that she just couldn’t remember it, but I was happy that she was experiencing them like a child for the first time, and I was happy to be holding her hand.

I thought, too, of sitting with friends and my children in a field in Chamblee last year, and knowing my Grandfather was not long for the world, and being overwhelmed at the sight of the fleeting bursts in the sky, and being moved to tears.

I listened to my children describe the sight and tears brimmed at the edges of my eyes.

“That one’s like a flower blossoming,” and “That one’s like Saturn,” he said, and “they perfectly lightly up the sky!” she exclaimed.

I held my son’s body on my chest, and rested my cheek next to his, and put my arms around him over his chest, and smiled when he reached up to clasp my arms with his hands. I felt him there past the brink of child and onto boyhood. I felt his weight get heavier and more substantial in the way that children do when they are bone-tired from good play and sun. I watched as he fell asleep and began to snore in the car on the way home, fireworks still lighting the sky over the bay.

I saw my sister relaxed and happy waiting for us, and it made my heart happy. I walked with my husband down the boardwalk. I stood, skirt snapping around my legs, and watched more fireworks, up and down the beach, and heard the raucous shouts of those shooting them off carried over to us across the sand. I laid down on the wind worn wood and we looked up at a million stars, and we watched a satellite traverse the sky above us.

I pondered the wonders man had made, and too, the horrors he had wrought.

I thought of the sadness and fear and anger I sensed from the people who make this place their home. And I cursed those who threatened them, and I cursed us all for the way we live. I lamented the fact that we have taken it all for granted until it might be too late.

I thought of a lifetime’s memories there – fishing and nets and swimming and sandcastles. The exhilaration of being away from my parents for the first time. Falling in love. Running on the beach. Watching the sunrise with my future husband, and bonfires and sweat lodges and drunken wrestling with friends. My sweet puppy, now an old dog, romping in the sand. I thought of the first time I ever saw my children play in the surf together.

I left it there yesterday, still pristine, still untouched, and I questioned if I would ever see it this way again in my lifetime, this place that captured my heart and soul.

I wondered if my children would remember it at all.

  5 comments for “The Gulf

  1. July 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Excellent post Anne, thank you.

  2. Vicki
    July 6, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Powerful.

  3. July 6, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    That is beautiful.

    And all porch ceilings should be painted blue.

  4. July 6, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks, Becky. Are you friends with Todd and Kirk?

  5. July 6, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks, y’all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *