My grandfather plunked me into the sea before I was six months old. It’s one of my oldest and most gratifying relationships. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life, when I step into the ocean, I’m a newborn again. I’m free. I’m safe. I’m floating. I’m happy.
Some people have churches, some people have lakes or mountains. My memory is full of sand and cottony towels, and the stickiness of sunscreen, and the taste of salty fries after a long day, and the feel of blackberries, hot from the sun, exploding in my mouth. I remember night swims, and day swims, and the feel of the waves, and the feeling of being submerged and being rocked by the water’s currents. It’s a place of sensations, the stinging flies, and the sand in my toes, the drying sand in the sunscreen on my legs, the hot sand burning the thin soles of my feet, the feel of shells in the sand underfoot, and sometimes in the water, when I set foot for a moment on the sand-bed, stepping on a crab going about its business. There’s the odd corset-like feeling of a wet bathing suit drying. The pleasures of a seafood dinner after a beach day. The endlessness of the long sleepy ride home from the beach.
There are always small surprises when I get home: the splotches of red skin when I look in the bathroom mirror and notice I missed applying sunscreen to my neck. There’s the return of the summer freckles on my face. Finding sand at the bottom of my beach bags. The way the New Yorker crumples up and dries stiff after its pages get wet.
Teen year kisses on the beach. Long walks with grandma looking for shells at low tide.
It’s all there. Past, present, future, intermingling in the brine. Some say our blood has the salinity of the sea.