My recent trip to Kauai was more than a first trip to share with my husband and our daughter, or a trip to visit my parents. It became a trip that I didn’t anticipate taking: one into my own past.
With rushing sound of the ocean and the scent of freshly fallen rain, the memories made on the island decades before came flooding back with unexpected fervor.
Turn the corner and see the pineapple stand on the side of the road: I’m under 12 and we
are taking turns as a family putting our faces through the wooden cut-outs so we can piece it together as a future Christmas card.
Pass the coastline and Brennecke’s: I’m a freshman in college and my sister and I are reminiscing about drinking non-alcoholic Pink Panthers with little plastic monkeys hanging off the glass as we walk back to the house with snacks we purchased with our own money.
Step foot into the water at Lydgate with my squirming daughter in my arms: suddenly I’m not a mom watching children splash and play in the cove, but I’m five or six years old again, happily throwing a rock over and over and over again so I can paddle over on my new board, snorkel on, retrieve it, and repeat.
Words failed me while we were there and left me unable to articulate to my husband what I was feeling and thinking, or where in my mind’s eye I had been transported to. I badly wanted to share it all with him, to have him understand how much the little things meant, to have him essentially relive it with me. In retrospect I now see that instead, it’s up to me to help us build such memories from here on out, so that when our daughter is older, we can tell her stories about her first trip, about the things that she did and correct her in saying, “No, you’ve been there before, you just don’t remember — but we do.”
After riding waves with my father for the first time in far too long, I was returning back to where we had set up camp on the beach after a second rinse-off at the showers. As I followed the fading, wet footsteps we had left before, my father’s path right next to mine, I marveled at how as the imprints neared the sand, each footprint seemed to shrink, as though it was not wetness fading away but instead years.
There, for a brief, fleeting moment, I was once again a child chasing my father’s footsteps. I was wide-eyed and eager to stay in the water as long as possible. I could practically feel my knees on his board, my toes barely dipping into the water, hearing him say “Kick! Kick! Kick” as he pushed me off on a wave he had paddled me out to. The innocence of my youth allowed me to trust fully in the security of his hand on the board. While he taught my sister and me to never turn our backs on the ocean, to respect the force of it and to not fight the rip tide, I never recall feeling truly frightened. There were times where I’d get dumped off my board and have sand and water up my nose and need to take a breather on the beach – it definitely happened more than once – but I never stopped trying to get back out there.
And I never will.
Once a beach baby, always a beach baby — now simply an older beach baby with her own little grom to finally share the feel of sandy toes and salty hair with.