A young girl in an orange bikini is concentrating hard as she does a series of handsprings and walkovers, the water lapping gently at her feet as she turns herself upside-down over and over again. Two friends sit nearby in the sand, clapping and grinning after each of her tricks. A short way down the beach, two teenaged boys and a much younger one toss a football in a circle, their laughter carried by the ocean breeze. Beside them a group of kids with boogie boards giggle and squeal as they try to catch the best wave, and a trio of diapered toddlers pluck seashells from the wet sand. Two other girls, so alike they must be sisters, laugh uproariously as they try to stand in the shallow surf but let the waves knock them down, again and again and again.
I take this all in. I want to go up to each and every one of them and give them a message. Enjoy this day. Savor this time. You are so lucky to be a kid down the Jersey Shore on a summer day. You are so blessed to have this sand, this sun, this sea, this sky. You are at that age where you are still unafraid of the waves, you don’t care what anyone is thinking when they see you.
Your biggest problems are but quandaries of playtime.
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and friends are waiting for you at a circle of beach chairs under an umbrella whose pattern you have memorized, as a beacon to guide you back to where you started should the water slide you away.
These days will fade. You will grow. Hold on to these memories. Remember what it felt like to charge into the waves without thinking twice. Remember finding the perfect seashell and holding it close to your heart. Remember the silly games you made up that no one else understood, remember playing pretend right there in front of strangers and not caring if they thought you were crazy. Remember dreaming you would make it to the Olympics, winning a gold medal in Beach Gymnastics or Boogie Boarding or Water Football or Sandcastle Building.
Take a minute to get out of the ocean, go back to that circle of beach chairs, and hug the people waiting for you. Then hug the people who were beside you, the ones clapping for you, throwing the ball to you, giving you their shells, helping you up when the waves knocked you down.
When you are a grown up trying to figure out grown up problems, it is these memories, these feelings… and most importantly, these people that will get you through.
“May your joys be as deep as the ocean, your sorrows as light as its foam.”