A strong memory is created when you do or see something utterly spectacular for the first time. And I was on my way to do a lot of doing and a lot of seeing.
Susan sat up front, snuggled between Mom and Dad. David and I each had window seats in the back. We were headed to Maine on a real vacation and staying in our first motel.
“Are we almost there?” I asked.
“We’re close,” said Dad. “If you roll down your windows you can smell the sea air.”
We inhaled deeply and exhaled with an aaahh sound. Glimpses of ocean peaked between the buildings.
Dad pulled into the motel parking lot and we poured out of our car.
David and I carried our child-size suitcases in to our room and gazed around. It contained a small black-and-white television, two double beds, a cot, and a private bathroom. David and I fought over the cot, he won.
My family hurried down to the ocean. This was the first ocean experience for us kids. It surpassed my uninformed expectations. It wasn’t the beauty or vastness that caught my attention; it was the unrelenting power, frightening and cold-hearted as it reached for my toes.
Green waves crashed into each other, racing up the steep shoreline, only to get pulled back and forced to start over. Ropes of slimy seaweed hitchhiked in the surf and jumped off on shore.
David and I pranced in and out of foamy ice water, ignoring our numbing feet. Evening began drifting in, covering the warmth with its nippy sea-air. Reluctantly, we returned to our room and washed our sandy feet in the tub-shower combo.
David and I shared an unspoken anticipation of tomorrow. Tomorrow we wouldn’t tip-toe around the ocean. Tomorrow, bathed in brilliant sunshine, we would conquer the waiting waves. We would truly know the ocean.
The next morning, I gobbled my breakfast. David quickly finished and we stood impatiently. Mom and Susan carefully chewed their food. Dad cleaned his plate and returned to the buffet for seconds.
“Hurry up,” said David.
“All the best spots will be gone,” I added.
After everyone finished eating, Mom insisted we use the restroom before leaving.
I jumped hurdles of abandoned seaweed on my way to the ocean. Ignoring the prickly numbing of the icy Atlantic Ocean, I slowly immersed myself with help from a few rogue waves.
I loved the ocean waves, so much stronger than the random boat ripples at Lake St. Catherine. David and I tried body-surfing, but only succeeded in sandpapering our stomachs and packing water in our noses.“Yaaaa,” I squealed as a strand of stinky seaweed suddenly wrapped around my shoulders. I turned and beheld a laughing brother. “David!”
Seaweed was flung back and forth until Mom put a stop to it. I twined several long pieces around my head and trailed them behind me, a mermaid bridal veil.
“Hey Dad, Mom, look at us,” we yelled in unison.
Ingenious seaweed skirts hung from our waists. Our skinny hips swayed to a new version of the hula while we sang, “A loo ha loi, A loo ha loi, hula lula, loo ha loi.”We ran back to the water where we played until our lips turned blue. Sitting in the sand beside Susan, we enlarged the shallow hole she dug. Dad joined in and carved a channel, allowing water from each wave to come spilling in.
Our swimming pool quickly warmed under the vacation sun. All four of us began by sitting with our feet submerged, then David, Susan, and I dunked our butts in with our legs hanging over the outside.
David and I alternated between flash-freezing in the ocean and slowly warming in our pool.
The endless vacation day, so perfect in every way, flowed into our memories where it truly never ended.
I didn’t see the ocean again for another fourteen years, but I knew it was waiting and I knew I would return.
Lesson learned: The time and money you spend on family vacations is long remembered.
Now it’s your turn: Do you remember your first ocean experience?
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