Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sur La Plage

After seeing Lady Liberty we walked to the car. Bek and I were side by side and she had a look of bliss on her face, " Mom, I LOVED New York, but the smell of the ocean was my favorite part." I wondered then, for the first time in my life, if it was possible for experiences to creep into our DNA.

I grew up on the ocean. Most of my childhood summers were spent living on a boat. We had a house, but the boat was where we went for the weekends, and the long vacation each summer. I even recall a couple of summers where my dad commuted to this floating summer house from his job in Hartford. Having sneakers that never quite dried because they were wet with the Atlantic was so common I never even realized it was uncomfortable until I was an adult. Rinsing sand from body crevices, knowing the tide schedule and where the sandbars and muscle beds were was just part of our lives, like my kids know what channels Disney and Nick are and that summer means Baseball.

What my kids don't really know is the ocean. Beks comment made me wonder if it was possible for my childhood to have crept into her physical makeup. She was at the beach as a toddler. I laugh at the memory of every woman in our group applying sunblock to her very fair skin , each of us thinking " oh no, what if someone else missed a spot!" Luke was a similar age when he last visited the beach. They might have snippets of memories now, at 12 and 11, but a strong pull like I possess had to be developed over many summers, many memories.

Didn't it?

Yesterday the clouds broke and my Sister-in Law, Tracy took us to the beach. We went to a small beach near where they rent a cottage each summer . The ride seemed longer than I remember, but Tracy and I had traveled to these beaches, or nearby ones, as teenagers. It's what we skipped school to do, how we spent our weekend free times and days off once we had jobs. The pull of the beach is strong for Tracy and I because it is a part of our lives. The thrill for my kids was the opposite, it was new and different.

The smell hit us first, then we rounded a corner and saw it, big, blue, shimmering-- and I had a feeling of home instantly. The weathered cedar shake houses, the beach grasses, the lawns all sporting hydrangea and pink fairy roses, the smell of low tide in an inlet...

" EWW.. what is that smell?!" Screamed Luke from the backseat. My fantasy beach day memories came to a harsh and abrupt halt. This child did not like the smell of the ocean?! As he is entering puberty I often wonder what happened to my kid, where this creature came from, but now, in this instant, I knew it. They must have switched babies in the hospital.

I quickly looked over and saw the look on Beks face as she gazed at the Atlantic. I recognized the look because it was the same one I had on my face. But Luke? He was born from me, he looks too much like me to deny it, but his father is not an ocean fan. Brian was raised in the Midwest and thinks oceans are full of sharks and danger. Just like my family on the East Coast thinks the Midwest is full of tornadoes and cows. Luke is more like his father than me. He enjoyed our day at the beach, swimming in the icy waters, hauling up every form of seaweed he could find and getting buried in sand by his sister and cousin. But he could live for many years without ever returning. He does not possess the call of the sea. Inherited or learned, he does not have it.

But Bek and I, we can look at each other in a knowing way that we share this bond: the smell of low tide does not offend us, and the shimmering blue calls to us in a foreign language that we are both fluent in.


  1. Beautiful ... Your post holds such great detail that I can tell you are enjoying your trip, and that memories are flooding your senses. Perhaps you needed this little trip more than you realized. I'm happy for you that you got the opportunity to take it!

  2. Omigosh, I love this! I love the smell of the ocean, too. My kids have never been and I'm sad for them because of it.

    And I must say, you had the most amazing upbringing. Like something in a Hemingway novel.

  3. Wow. I love hearing about the special bond you share with your daughter. This was one of my favorite posts, definitely.


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