Vacation is always such a weird thing. You either love it or you hate it and you either really, really want to come home or, like me this time, you wish you could figure out a way to live at the beach, rather than in the ho-hum Midwest. I know that soon enough I will be wrapped up in the day to day stuff again and I will not feel like this, but right now I’m having a hard time feeling good about being home. I thought a lot this week about sitting down to write, I really did…but something always seemed more important, like watching the sun rise and then set over the ocean, or watching my eldest daughter learn how to swim (!!) or watching my children interact with their grandparents and their aunt and uncle in ways that just never happen when the hustle and bustle of daily life get in the way. Yes, those moments took precedence over writing, and I’m glad they did.
I thought about writing about the drive over the bridge that connects Jekyll Island with Brunswick and St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, and how I literally get the shakes when I have to drive it alone. And that the first night my in-laws were there, they tried to get over it only to find it was closed because someone had tried to jump off of the bridge. I thought about sharing the experience we had getting trapped in a torrential downpour in Atlanta after deciding it was too nice outside to drive to the aquarium…whoops! My girls had their fist cab ride and you would have thought Lucy had won the lottery. “MOM!!!! You can ride? In a car??? WITHOUT a carseat???” Yes, honey. Welcome to the South…
But, instead, my mind keeps coming back to something I witnessed one afternoon. Something probably only I thought was interesting, or astounding, or heartbreaking. (Sometimes I honestly wonder if I never really grew out of having emotions like I did when I was twelve.) We had taken our things down to another part of the island during one high tide because the beach outside our condo was non-existent when the tide comes in. While we were sitting there, I watched a mother take the arm of her blind child (a girl in her late teens if not early twenties) and lead her to where the waves were hitting the shore. The first thing that struck me was how sweet the gesture was, and then I got really choked up thinking about what must have been going on in the mother’s head. See? This is when most people would be all, “what do you mean? You are making this up – no one thinks this much about people they don’t even know…” but I do.
How would I even begin to describe the ocean to my sight-impaired child? How could I convey the way that the water looks first thing in the morning when the rising sun hits it and it sparkles like a thousand tiny mirrors? Or how the sea gulls and pelicans search, bellies nearly touching the water, until they see what they want and then dive down for their meal? How schools of teeny, tiny fish washed up with each wave, only to be pulled back into the ocean with the undercurrent? How do you put into words what it’s like to watch two dolphins do a dance, of sorts, up and then down again in the water just feet from where you stand?
There are things I imagine you could describe with ease to someone who might never have seen them with their eyes – trees, cats, even people with their particular features and distinctions. But, the ocean? Ever-changing. Light and dark, wide and deep. Mysterious. Elusive. I keep coming back to that scene, replaying it in my head, and each time I think of something else I might say to that child, another explanation – something else I might have missed the first time…I imagine that mother knows how this feels. It’s a little like feeling guilty for having the gift of sight.