Beach Treasures

By Linda O’Connell

The beach is my happy place. No matter how hectic my life, how frantic my thoughts or how many troubles I have the smell and sounds of the sea tames my unruly hair, improves my skin, softens my wrinkles and heals my heart. Every nerve cell seems to come alive when I am at the ocean. The grit and salt, that permanent beach town residents often complain about, acts as a balm to this landlocked Midwesterner. I appreciate every grain of sand clinging to my legs, the sun bronzing my cheeks and the ocean lapping at my soul.

Before my honey and I were married, we took our first beach vacation together. Before dawn, we strolled barefoot to the water’s edge with a cup of coffee and eased down on hotel beach chairs – absent their cushions, not yet set up with umbrellas. Our backs pressed into the wooden slats, our sugar-sand coated toes tunnelled divots in the sand. We sat quietly and watched the silhouette of an approaching woman jogger, with her long, gray hair flowing. Perspiration rolled off her forehead, and a smile creased her face as she came to an abrupt halt in front of us. She did not greet us. She looked us up and down and said with a foreign lilt, “Oh my, yes! You two are the perfect match. You belong together.”

We didn’t have time to reply. She sprinted off before we could agree. That woman’s pronouncement has always seemed like an ethereal gift. We have resurrected that stranger’s words many times over the years, especially when we’ve taken a beach vacation. As we celebrate our silver anniversary, I am reminded of that first time we strolled hand-in-hand. Bill and I were both in search of solace. Our relationship was brand new, our lives were intertwining, yet we had loose ends untied.

That morning, Bill and I were one with the elements, our vital signs were slow, and respirations were shallow as we reclined on weathered, wooden chairs. We watched in awe as daybreak seemed to rise out of the sea. Sun-tinged clouds billowed on the horizon, and the sun made an appearance. In the dawning glow, with sandy toes, our hair tousled by trade winds, we were convinced that woman was right. With my hand wrapped in Bill’s, I felt safe, completely at peace.

Over the years our marriage has been blessed with grandchildren. We’ve brought our brood to the beach, watched them try to tunnel to China, stay upright on skimmer boards and bob in the sea. The tiniest girl left footprints in the sand as she followed in Grampie’s footsteps. We have photos of the two “littlest” tucked into a large sand bucket. Their parents cavorted and we babysat so they, too, could have a beach break.

Bill and I met when we were in our middle years. He taught me how to jitterbug, love at length and trust at long last. As I now gaze into the depths of our golden years, another birthday is as imminent as the next wave. Numerical equations of LDLs and HDLs add up to high cholesterol, and we now battle elevated blood pressures. When life gets as wild as the high waves, I reminisce about that first beach vacation. As I sift through sands of time, I recall more about it.

Stunned when I looked out to sea, with my mouth agape, pulse pounding, I clasped his hand but dared not speak. Right before our eyes swam soul mates of the sea, two dolphins splashing, dining, dancing, traveling side by side, just like my mate and me. An omen, a blessing.

We tried so hard to make every moment of our first beach vacation last. On our last day, we were squeezing every last minute in at dusk on an isolated area of the beach. We sat in our blue, canvas camp chairs and watched the sun sink into the horizon. Twilight offered little illumination; we could only see silhouettes. Off in the distance, we watched a family frolicking. Parents lifted a small child to the top of the waves. Giggles carried our way. When they came out of the water, their little one spied us and ran toward us. Though I strained to see details, the child kept her head down and ran directly at me. I smiled as I watched blonde hair bob and bare feet slap the wet sand. The little one, still looking down, landed face-first in my lap and giggled.

Her parents ran after her and apologized. “Sorry. She’s overly-friendly.”

“No need to be sorry,” I said. “She’s just perfect. This is a great end to my beach vacation.”

“This is Kaleigh,” her mom said as the little girl looked up at me. She had an obvious birth defect; her thick tongue lolled out of her mouth, and her protruding eyes gazed at me with curiosity.

“We were playing and praying in the surf,” Kaleigh’s mom said, obviously troubled. “We return home tomorrow and have to make a decision about her education. We have to decide whether to mainstream her into a classroom of typically developing children or place her in a self-contained classroom with nine other children with disabilities. We’re not sure what to do.”

“Maybe I can help. I am an experienced preschool teacher, and I can assure you inclusion might be best for your friendly little girl who has many abilities and gifts to offer this world. The world needs more friendliness, don’t you think? Kaleigh would be a welcome addition in my classroom.”

Kaleigh’s parents said, “You have truly been a gift. You’ve helped us make a decision for our little girl.”

For many years I’ve walked the beach in search of the perfect seashell, sunset or sunrise picture. I realize there’s no such thing as perfection. The beach has always offered me so many unexpected gifts, and each one of them has truly been a unique treasure.

About this writer

  • Linda O’Connell

    Linda O’Connell

    A preschool teacher for almost four decades, is notorious for holding her life together with duct tape and humor. Her greatest loves are family, the beach and dark chocolate.

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16 Responses to “Beach Treasures”

  1. Pat Wahler says:

    There’s nothing like a beach story in the heart of winter. This is a treasure, Linda!

  2. Pat Nelson says:

    This great story reminded me that I, too, have a special place that fills my spirit with joy. For me, it is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico … not just the beach, but the people, the culture. May you each recognize your own special place. Thanks, Linda, for sharing yours.

  3. Dorothy says:

    Wonderful memories! Loved your descriptiveness! Sometimes we never know the impact we have on others. Enjoyed the story Linda!

  4. Alice Muschany says:

    Linda, your story conveyed that your beach vacation and your new relationship were special. That wasn’t the only special part. You always went above and beyond for the little ones in your care, and there you were sharing your vast knowledge with total strangers. Bill should have recognized right then and there that you were a keeper.

  5. Dianna Graveman says:

    What a beautiful story, Linda! You are such a talented teacher and writer. You make me happy I live near the beach. Now I just need to go more often!

  6. T'Mara Goodsell says:

    So lyrical. So lovely. It was like a mini vacation.

  7. Val says:

    I feel like I’m at the beach! That was relaxing tale that warmed my heart.

    I don’t believe in coincidences. You and Bill were meant for each other, just as that woman was meant to tell you, and the child to seek you out, and the mother to mention their dilemma and receive you advice.

  8. Well, now I want to got to the beach! It’s not hard to understand why you love it. Wonderful story, Linda.

  9. Beautiful story, Linda. It brought tears to my eyes. I also love the beach and feel calm there. I don’t have a great story like yours , so I guess I need to keep going back until I get one!

  10. jabblog says:

    Beautiful memories, warm enough to carry you through till the end of time.

  11. Linda–This is the first time a Sasee story has made me tear up. The ending was so sweet and so full.

    You truly WERE a gift to that family…

  12. Connie says:

    Wonderful story and memories, Linda. The beach holds a special place in my heart too. What a blessing for you to touch the lives of that little girl and her family.

  13. Made me think of that lovely poem, Linda…”I must go down to the seas again…” Some of us are just called to the sea; isn’t it nice that you and Bill have the same calling? ♥

  14. Beautiful, as always. You never disappoint. And with those gorgeous descriptions floating in my head, you know where I’m bound this afternoon! Sand between my toes. :)

  15. Anna Riley says:

    I love the beach as well! Thanks for the reminder that it brings us gifts and treasures. I’m due for a walk on the beach soon! Thanks for sharing :)

  16. Rose Ann says:

    The beach–a portal to peace and tranquility. Your story goes far beyond the sand and water. Loved it!

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