With his toes immersed in the wet sand and his face embracing the warm early morning sun, he was seated in a hypnotic trance listening to the ocean waves crash. Every summer, his family would vacation in this particular beach town, chosen generations ago by his ancestors. These summers were his refuge, his heaven, a place of grace, a place where all that was discomforting to the delicate senses of a seven year old boy, would disappear. Here, the family quarrels and the disharmony of home would all evaporate into a ball of goodness and colorful reflections before his imagination.
He longed for that feeling and impatiently waited nine months to give birth to another summer that would add another layer of joyful memory. He wanted the dirt by the rocks, and the endless acres of sand, to nourish the bottom of his spongy feet. He wanted to dig his toes into earth and feel its texture, its cooling and heating effect; he simply wanted to feel comforted by something. He would walk mindfully upon the sand, attentive to what his feet were feeling and would allow those pleasing senses from his tender feet to stream upward to his face, producing waves of delight. His summer friend Mary was the only one who knew his secret—‘that the grains beneath his feet were his most favorite toy.’ “There is a skip to that boy’s gait that’s endearing,” his great aunt often commented, most would agree and nod with a smile.
It seemed he was born to teach his mother fearlessness and his father animation. Adventure and exploration were his natural hobbies, as he would inspect insects by the rocks, smell and lick small uncooked fish, and play with loose vegetation in the ocean water. Conventionality and trepidation were not fundamentals of his constitution, and this, of course, was very concerning to the adults around him. His parents were always relieved to see him sleeping in the night, for nightfall was safe to them, without the jolting surprises of the waking hours that their son produced.
During the nine months away from the beach, his favorite activity before sleep had become jumping on the bed to various degrees of exhaustion, and, once exhausted and resting supine, one could hear that predictable echoing laughter from his small lungs that would rise and fill the house. This was a disagreeable occurrence to his mother who was invested in maintaining order. Marching upstairs to begin negotiations with her ‘creature’, a nickname she had stamped on him when he was two, she would carry on the job assigned to her by her perfunctory plump husband and unsuccessfully attempt to tame her son. “I’ll stop jumping when you and dad stop yelling and fighting,” was his usual cry, to which she would usually respond, “you can’t dictate what we do and we aren’t fighting, we’re talking.” This response of hers infuriated him and he would stand on the bed before her and proceed to jump, yelling “out, out, out.”
She was not resourceful enough to find solutions to balance the scales between father and son, he was. One day at the breakfast table he said to her, “I’ll stop jumping if you let me decorate my room with pictures of the beach.” She reluctantly agreed, ruminating “there will be peace, he will not jump, my husband will be pleased.”
For the following month, he diligently collected magazines from neighbors’ trash and, with his little hands, cut out pictures of sea, ocean, blue sky, sand, seagulls, seashells, anything and everything that was a reference to the beach. He was on a mission. If he can’t be near the beach, which was very far from their home, he would bring the beach into his solitary room like a colorful kite pulled down from the sky. With every scissor cut he could feel the tingle of excitement beneath his feet, the more he cut and shaped the images, the more he became silent and still and happy. He mostly remained in his room forgetting food, schoolwork, toilet, run, or the need to deliberately agitate his parents. He was Home, where time and space contracted into an explosion of heavenly creation, moments that touched bliss and transcended conflict. So he began to arrange and tape the clutter of magazine paper into a consequential collage on his bedroom walls, all four walls, every millimeter. He was determined to not see any image of a wall, only to feel the vibrating sensory impulses of pleasure beneath his feet, that traveled to his innocent face.
He had created his masterpiece. His heart was now content melodically purring an angelic tune. No walls could be seen, only peace. The intrusions outside his bedroom door remained remote and without penetrating effect. Over the years he would carefully and devotedly attend to the care of the browning and decaying pages, as age took its course on the material world. He never replaced the old with any new image, that would have been blasphemy to the sacred pulse of a vibrating life in a small brilliant room.
He lived in this sanctuary until his admission to a college located on a beachfront. On his last week at home, he meticulously, and reverently, removed his paper beach from the walls, placing all the, now crumbling, pages in a box, which he would later destroy in a ceremonial fire at the beach, upon his arrival in college. He later spent two days painting the bedroom, and returned to his parents the white walls, that were once given to him years ago. He was thankful to them for what they had given him. His soft face was looking for the sun to shine and his feet were dreaming about the skip on grains of sand. With excitement in his blood, and acceptance of what was, he boarded the train that would take him to the college by the beach.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/aotaro