I have a love/hate relationship with water, more specifically the beach. I hope my son has better luck and it looks as though he is off to a good start by the smile on his face.
The earliest I can remember with water is when I was a little girl and we went to the beach. I braved it out to the water and stood still, feeling the waves around me. It was good until the sand circled and covered my feet, more and more. I cried out to my mom to come get me, because I couldn’t move. She offered words of encouragement to stay in the water. I remember a paralyzing feeling, as if my legs would never be free of the sand. My mom did come and get me, but to this day, I don’t like that “sinking” feeling in the water and sand mix.
Many years after that, my parents would take our family to a condo unit that a friend owned. The beach was secluded and the sand dunes were large. My brother and I would walk for hours in the dunes, leaving messages in the sand and then later go fly kites by the beach waves. I remember one particular time… the winds were strong and the waves were high. I was nervous, but my brother said, “Come on, let’s get the floaties and go in the water.” The floaties were the air mattress types for you to lay in the water on. We folded them in half and straddled them in order to ride the waves and wow, those waves were high.
After a few careless moments on the waves, my dad came out from the condo to get us. On the waves, we didn’t hear the alarms blasting. A hurricane was headed our way and “all low lying areas were under an mandatory evacuation.” As we paddled back to the shore, a nasty jellyfish stung my leg… just my luck that the wind hurled the sand on the beach against the sting like sandpaper.
I have to deviate for a minute from water… because no, my family did not evacuate when we went back to the condo unit. My dad had already started cooking the Snow Crab legs, they weren’t finished cooking yet though. Mom said, “Lester, we need to leave! They said our area is in mandatory evacuation!” Dad, stubborn and determined refused to leave the stove, “I cooked these and we’re going to eat them!” Which is exactly what we did, in the midst of alarms going off and people rushing through the condos to leave.. we sat as a family at the kitchen table, eating snow crab legs, with a hurricane knocking on the beach shore. I can honestly say I've never had better tasting snow crab legs since then!
And back to water…
Even the sound of waves is a love/hate. I love it at first. It’s relaxing. But I’m not like most people… I can’t stand to leave the windows open at night so I can “hear the waves.” The constant of the waves eventually gives me a horrible headache. I have bad hearing, so when there is a constant sound, it starts to feel like line noise in my head.
That said, I love to swim, something I learned early on. (I need to add, I don’t like to swim in the ocean.) When my mom taught me to swim, she would say, “Just make it to where I am.” I would swim towards her; it took me a while to figure out that as I swam to “where she was,” she would back up step by step to keep me going. This is a trick I most likely will adopt with my own child. My parents went from having a membership at a country club to building a pool in their backyard. I was thrilled!
I would swim by myself or with others, most of the time preferring swimming under the water. My dad used to call me a dolphin. I would swim to the deepest part of the pool and see how long I could hold my breath. I would do handstands in the water. And I loved to simply not move and float, face looking up at the sky and allow the air in my lungs to keep me floating without having to move my limbs. I still love to swim, but now I don’t swim underwater because the chemicals irritate my eyes.
We did bring my son to my parents’ pool and put him in a floating seat for babies. Gregory didn’t know what to make of it. We held the floating seat for safety and walked him around the pool. He wasn’t stunned. He didn’t cry. But he also didn’t smile. Maybe next summer he will be better able to appreciate the pool.
And hopefully my husband won’t have any more nightmares. During my pregnancy, my husband dreamt we were at my parents’ home and nobody saw my son open the French doors to the pool area and he fell in. I can understand the dream haunting him. I didn’t have the dream and yet the thought freaks me out.
My husband and I even discussed not bringing our son into the waves when my parents offered to bring us to the beach. Oh, what a disappointment. Not the decision to keep our son out of the water… but the experience.
My dad made the arrangements for us to stay at the Beau Rivage, because the hotel stated they were “on the beach, just walk outside of the hotel.”
What they didn’t explain was that you have to walk all the way around this massive hotel to find this little strip of beach. And around the beach? The interstate making a curve shape overhead. And the water? Icky brownish, because there is a barrier island in front of the hotel, so you get more murky water than ocean.
We asked some fellow beach goers where the pretty water was, come to find out… you had to drive a distance to get to it. Major disappointment for our son’s first time to the beach.
But you know what? My son didn’t mind. He didn’t cry during the long walk around the building or the jolting stroller ride through the sand. He didn’t wrinkle his nose at the color of the water or cringe at the cars driving overhead. Look at that smile. He just knew it was something different and something was moving. He was in the moment of something new without expectations or definitions or disappointments. My son continues his education on the world and in educating his mommy.
Sometimes we just need to let go of what we expect and joy will find us.