Beach Week

Comments Off on Beach Week Art of Writing, Memoir, Non-fiction, Issue 9

By Stacie Hargis

It was exactly seventeen weeks from the day it happened. 

There I was on the beach, the sun, warm on my back. Belly smashed against a soft towel on top of rough, shell-infused sand. I was reading but was distracted by the noise around. Flipping over, I land on the sand instead of snugly on the towel. The shells agitate my skin as I shimmer over. 

Water slithers in and out, and caresses the shore. I can hear the foam make a faint bubbly sound. Seagulls squawk above, hunting for their next unattended beach bag to attack. Women chat about their work. Children down by the water build a sandcastle. Their laughter dominates the air and takes away all the other sounds. It’s like a vacuum. Their giggles suck up all the energy. I linger with them, let them take my mind for a moment. 

Their laughter slowly turns into intelligible sing-song words. “Mister ssssaaaand maaaan bring me iiiiiice creeeeeam.” They roll on the sand and throw their bodies between the castle and waves, jumping like frogs. One of the little boys fills his tiny hand with sand and then stacks it on his shovel. Grin from ear to ear, his one tooth in the front sticks out. He is radiant. 

Throwing his arm, the sand releases from the shovel just as a little girl a few years older runs by. She stops suddenly and looks at him with a furrowed brow. Her gaze drifts down to where sand has landed on her feet then grabs the shovel out of his hand. Before he knows it, the shovel is gone. 

My attention is broken when my niece joins me in the fold-up chair along the towel. We got here three days ago, the first only a half-day, the second a rainy-filled dud.

“Did you hear from Amy?” she asked. 

“I have not. I’m not sure she’ll get off work.” I said, “But I know Grayson is coming Friday.”

“Okay, good, I don’t want you here alone all week. I feel bad I have to leave today.”

“Don’t feel bad! I go to the beach all the time alone. This is so relaxing to me. A book and a glass of wine, and I’m all set. I’m happy you could come for the time you did.” 

She left that afternoon after lunch. I sent her off with a long wave from the balcony then went inside the cottage to fill my tumbler. As I walked out on the porch to head back to the beach, the cottage next door erupted in cries. It was a humid day. They were a family of two sisters with six young kids. The men would show up once in a while, but the mother of the sisters was always with them, mostly to tend the youngest ones. I could hear one of the sisters coo them with the promise of cool water in the small kiddie pool. 

“It’s so refreshing! Stick your feet in first to feel.” 

I watch as she pours water over one of the baby’s back as he babbles and starts to cool down. This would be our routine. 

Back at the beach I settle into my chair and stare out at the ocean. The glistening waves feel like smiles, and I can’t help but feel gratitude for this moment. For being alive. For breathing in this salty fresh air. For the warmth on my cheeks. For having a career to afford me this time and money to rent a beach cottage.  I am grateful. I feel mostly full. 

I pull out my book, Gloria Steinem’s biography “My Life on the Road,” the stories mesmerize and encourage with a reminder to listen, to understand other perspectives, and that everyone has some sort of cross to bear. I get lost reading for what seems like hours, the sun has moved to the west. 

I take a deep breath and put my book down as I twist to sit up in the chair. I slide my hands over my eyes. My skin turns shades of orange to dark blue as I press harder to darkness. I open my eyes again and readjust to the scene around me on this bright day. Take it all in. 

To the left of me is a family of eight huddled underneath a pop-up canopy, each of them with their back to the world, pointed toward the center where a mother sits with an infant on her lap. Everyone is watching them. I stare at her as she strokes the baby’s blonde curls as she talks. The hair looks soft, delicate. A soft curl straightens out as her index finger pulls away from his head, then it bounces back at the end. This would be our routine. 

I feel heavy and quickly turn right to change my view and my thoughts. Three heads stare down into their laps at books, one of them much younger than the other two. I think about how important reading would have been in our life. This would be our routine. 

That familiar feeling comes back. I’m transported to the Rhode Island School of Design museum in Providence, where I spent a day over Spring Break. It was bitterly cold outside, but I was still warm from the Raman soup I ate before wandering into the museum, meandering through the art show. As I neared the permanent collection, an enormous Buddha statue peeped through the door. Once I entered the room, the lighting was softer, distilled from the deep red wall behind the enormous wooden Buddha. It sat almost the whole height of the room, omniscient and peaceful. 

“Buddha Mahavairocana (Dainichi Nyorai) c. 1150. Dainichi means ‘great sun’ in Japanese, the generative force of all creation from whom other Buddha emanate.” 

Its legs were folded into a perfectly straight line in front of hands formed to the shape of an oval. I sat on the bench along the wall and soaked it in. Sitting there, at ease, I felt like I was sharing truth and knowledge itself. I wanted to squeeze as many learning opportunities as I could into our lives. I wanted to come back there with you.  This would be our routine. 

I had gotten into the habit of meditating when I first found out I was pregnant. I would sit and pause life, concentrating on a few mantras. 

“May we be happy. May we be well. May we be safe. May we be peaceful and at ease.” 

These mantras were to protect us and to calm me as I was struck by worry from the beginning. Every time I went to the bathroom for the first twelve weeks, I expected to find blood in the toilet. I would feel a sense of dread as I grabbed toilet paper from the dispenser. 

May we be happy. 
May we be well. 
May we be safe. 
May we be peaceful and at ease. This would be our routine. 

The waves crashed in front of me, and I snapped back to the beach. I had booked this beach week the weekend after it happened, when it was still cold. I knew I needed to do something right at the time I would be feeling like I missed something big. 

I knew warmth and peace would help. And here I was, feeling warmth, and searching for peace. I would have been either too big to sit out on the beach or at home nursing a preemie. 

But… here I am. Sitting on a beach. 

One of the littles from next door ran by, her hot pink bathing suit with ruffles flapping along with her. She stopped and looked at me before darting off toward the water. Her mother rushed behind. 

She closed in and yelled “Addy!” as she swooped her up. Her little legs immediately grasped around her mother’s body as she entered the water. Her mother dipped her hand into the water and ran some of the cool water down Addy’s back. Addy laughed. Her little feet pointed out and then up.  This would be our routine. 

I closed my eyes and could see the picture of his little 19-week feet pointing up at me, captured by that last ultrasound. That last time I got to think about what would be our routine, with him with me.  May we be peaceful and at ease. 

I took a deep breath… and start reading again. 

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