My parents are both retired schoolteachers. I’m a teacher. Summer takes on a whole new meaning in a teacher’s world. A taste of freedom. Those glorious, sun-soaked months when the kids are at home and the classrooms are empty. For as long as I can remember, summers have also meant a trip down to the beach.
I wasn’t even in kindergarten the first time my family made our pilgrimage down to Pensacola Beach. Back then, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all made the trip. We’d rent this magical house, butted right up against the gulf, and we’d snorkel and boogie board and turn the color of lobsters by week’s end. At night we’d take nets and flashlights, the sand cool in the moonlight between our toes, and we’d hunt crabs. My grandparents were never really beach bums, but they footed the bill, spending most of their days inside watching television or reading books.
Time, as we all know, goes on. When my grandparents passed, Mom and Dad continued the tradition. Being an only child, it was a much smaller undertaking. Throughout my teenage years I was always allowed to bring a friend.
In college, friends changed to girlfriends, and then about a year after graduating, I dropped down on one knee, atop the same sparkling white beach where I’d vacationed for nearly twenty years, and proposed to Mallory.
These days our trip has one small (but monumental) addition: Emersyn Lynn Cranor. Our daughter has rejuvenated the annual trip in the same way she’s brought new light to each and every day of our lives.
Yes, we have to pack much, much more than just a bag of clothes. Yes, there’s no longer “down time” when it comes to the beach. Somehow all those extra bags, all those extra hauls, make the time spent playing in the sand, collecting seashells, applying layer after layer of sunscreen—worth it
Children seem to do that; they make it all worth it.
There’s not a summer that goes by where I don’t think of my grandparents: Mimi and Poppy. Every time we’re down in Pensacola, we wind up telling some story about how funny they were, how they “really didn’t like the beach.” And I know my grandparents would have both gotten a kick out of Emmy.
Watching her stumble across the white beach with sand-caked cheeks would have been their greatest joy. I know it. To think that I wasn’t much older than she is now when we made the first trip south, makes me stop and consider time in these waning days of summer.
Time is like the ocean. Like the tides. It never stops. Washing all those fragile seashells and sand dollars into dust, wave after wave, rolling over the shore as the children play and the parents laugh.
Time does not stop. But a trip down to the beach seems to somehow slow the clock. We cling tight to the memories, building them up like castles—even if they’re made of sand—before the next wave comes and another school year starts and grandparents are left behind like footprints running along the shore. We know the high tide will come and wash away the marks we’ve made, but never the memories.
Never the memories.
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Photo credit: Pixabay