After a 12 hour road trip with two sleepy children that were coming in and out of consciousness, we arrived underneath our beach house rental in Santa Rosa Beach, Fl. We parked the car, threw open the doors, unbuckled the kids and ran straight towards the sand. As if we were kids again, we all shouted, jumped up and down, and got ourselves wet with goosebumps as the strong winds from the Gulf welcomed us. In the middle of unpacking, I found Mom and Ava by the shore for a personal greeting and was absolutely speechless with the view. I felt as though I was at the edge of the earth. I was humbled. I was scared. I felt so alive to be in the presence of God's wonders. The ocean. My mother. My daughter.
I watched Ava's natural curiosity tip toe on the wet sand, and focus on the cold rush of baby waves washing over her feet. What a beautiful moment etched in my memory - Mom and Ava holding hands. This brought back memories of my own childhood and how we'd spend our summers growing up in Queens, NY. We'd wake up Saturday morning to the smell of boiled eggs and potatoes in the apartment. Mom would have the cooler packed with hamburger patties, chips and Sunkist and Wagma and I would dig for our bathing suits before brushing our teeth. The four of us would walk the 10 blocks to the subway and drag our cooler and plastic bags filled with towels and extra clothes. The anticipation of the last stop on the F train for Coney Island made us bubble over with excitement - because to us, it felt like we were going to the other side of the world. Sun tan lotion mixed with the hot air, half naked bodies going in every direction, music blaring from store vendor booths, metal screeching against wood and children screaming with their hands in the air - mom and dad completely to us - this is what summer is made of.
After crossing the rickety boardwalk, our senses would fill with saltwater and sand. As much as Mom tried back in those days, I always refused to go into the water. Dad took me into the ocean once by carrying me on his shoulders - and I was sure the waves were going to pull me off and bury me at the bottom of the ocean and then eat me alive. He gave up after I pulled every black curl he had left on his head. There were even conspired attempts by Wagma - who pretended once she was drowning. I grabbed my tube and ran over to her. By the time I reached her, she stood up and shouted - "You made it." I looked up at her, cried and ran back - wishing she had drowned for real.
And for this very reason, I wasn't going to push Ava and Noah to jump waves on their first day. Instead, we allowed them to experience it their own way. Whether it was playing in the sand, or sleeping under the umbrellas - life for one week - was a beach.
Taking our first family trip to the beach is somewhat nostalgic for me. I cherish those childhood memories my parents gave us [even those times I came home crying because of saltwater burning my nose]. Not having my father with us on this family vacation left us all a little empty - as so often we thought of him and how much he would have loved swimming in the water. I'd imagine him with his blue swim cap on swimming out to the deep waters, or what'd he'd say about the stingrays we saw traveling near the shore or the wonderful cool breezes every morning and night...Having my family with us on this trip was the best birthday gift I could have ever wished for as it gave me a wonderful transition remembering my childhood to now making new ones with our own children. Thank you Wagma, Masaud, and Humzah for sharing your family vacation with us and making each day so special... Thank you Greg for being the best friend ever to all of us - Thank you Roshana for having fun every single moment - I enjoyed it all with you - Thank you Mom - for being such an incredible mother and keeping us all in check. My greatest love, Aaron - thank you for making it all possible. I am so grateful that I have that kind of a family who is not into agendas but each other. I look forward to next summer - same place - same time - with all of you.