A cool breeze tousled my hair, and the familiar scent of salt stimulated my nose. An old blue sweatshirt guarded my body against the cold October day. The sky was bright blue - like an Easter egg that had been left in the dye a tad too long. It was a rocky beach with a sparse amount of coarse, damp sand of various colors. Massive charcoal-gray boulders jutted defiantly out of the sound, forming a jetty a few hundred feet long. The beach was desolate, empty of life, save for my father, my mother, my little sister and a few sea gulls.
We came to the beach that Saturday, as we did every year, to spend time together, eat a little and enjoy the vast, open body of water before stopping off for some ice cream and heading on home. My sister and I played together on the shore. She hunted for smooth round rocks as I tried to make them skip across the placid water. Mom and Dad sat on a rock and spoke quietly and happily, smiling at each other and occasionally both shooting a glance at us as we played.
Even though we visited that same beach every year, it was never thought of as a family tradition, as Thanksgiving with the cousins or decorating the Christmas tree were. Those drives to the north shore of Long Island in the beat-up old mini-van seemed spontaneous and fresh each year, never repetitive or boring. Each time when we returned home, I felt a warm, close feeling toward my family. Those times alone with them were what got us through the hard days when Dad was unemployed and became fond, comforting memories from the best of times. Gazing into the huge body of water made me think of how immense the world must be, how strong my family was to exist as one in it.
Since we have moved from Long Island and I have grown up, I have not been back to that beach in years. Life seems so much more hectic now; I find myself backing out of family outings more frequently. There is always a term paper to write or a meeting to attend or a friend to be with. I look back at those clean, bright days with my family as bookmarks in a volume of my life, pages that have been written long ago but which I can always turn back to for comfort. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.