I know these colors so well. These pale and luminous colors of sand and sea and sky. These colors that melt and morph into each other and back again with the rise and fall of the tide, the climb of the moon, the set of the sun. These creamy whites and silvery grays. These liquid blues. I could drown in the colors and never stop breathing.
Today the colors are cool. Thin clouds filter out much of the late afternoon sun and we don’t have to squint to see Adam and Jackson, my boy and his boy, frolicking in the shallow waves. Father lifts son onto a boogie board and they wait for the next wave. Belly to the board, two small hands clutching the front end, he is held steady by two large hands at the rear.
The wave comes, building and building and building, and, just as it breaks, just as the rolling blue water cracks into white foam, the two large hands let go. With the slightest push, the board flies across the water, floating over the froth like a magic carpet. We cannot hear the shrieks of delight, but we can see the head thrown back, the mouth wide open in a grin. The wave dies on the beach and Jackson stumbles to his feet, turns around, and heads back to Adam, waiting in the breaking surf.
The boogie board is a gift from Jackson’s grandmother. She has come to visit from the part of the world where sheiks live and magic carpets are said to ride on wind currents, not waves. She does not have to tell me what she sees. I see it, too. The son reflects the father. Hair the color of corn silk just sprouted, eyes the color of the bluebird nesting in my mailbox. I know these colors, too.
This is a place away from time, away from schedules and clocks and artificial rhythms. The grandmother and I have watched Jackson and his little sister Chambless and have not been able to keep ourselves from seeing Adam and his sister Kate. Fearless Chambless is fearless Kate. Thoughtful Jackson is thoughtful Adam. The one who runs for the deep end; the one who eases in from the steps. It is as though there are four children here with us, not two.
It is our last afternoon together. The sun is slipping quickly behind the tops of the live oaks and stucco mansions that lie behind the sand dunes. We move our chairs farther and farther up the beach as the waves inch relentlessly toward our bare feet and wet towels. We are chased by the tide and we are chased by time. One will reverse itself and one never will.
We came to make memories. And we did. We walked in the village and played under the big tree where my friends got married. We had cannonball contests and picked up shells and, thank the Lord, got the babies’ mama some barbecue at Southern Soul. We laughed and cuddled and told stories.
And, then, in the midst of coming home, finding leftover sand in the floorboard and tan marks on my shoulders, I realized it works the other way around, too. We make memories, but memories also make us. Remembering the sweet times makes me kinder, the hard times less trusting. Remembering the victories makes me stronger, the losses not so much. Remembering that the sun rose yesterday and the full moon will show up again next month and the tide is going to be high sometime today makes me hopeful and optimistic, despite all the reasons not to be.
Which is why, all evidence to the contrary, I can see myself some summer day with my feet in the sand watching Jackson lift his own son onto a boogie board and push him out into the waves.