A Ray of Sunshine

October 7, 2012
It was that special moment in life where everything is so perfect, you wish it could last forever. It was a beautiful summer evening in Cancun, Mexico. I walked onto the beach with my little brother from the beach side hotel where we were staying. As I walked onto the beach holding my little brother’s hand, which was so small he could only hold my thumb, he said to me, “Tee Tee, can we make a sand castle?” I said, “Of course we can, Ashton.” We walked together to where the sand and ocean met because there the sand was more moist and easier to mold. The mild breeze blew all my hair behind me, and specks of water from the ocean kissed my skin. The smell and taste of salt in the air clung to my hair, skin, and bathing suit.

As we neared the edge of the beach, Ashton released my thumb and ran towards the ocean. I told him to stay close to the shore as I watched him run away from me and play in the water, laughing when the crashing waves splashed him. As I watched him enjoy himself, several things happened at once. I heard my dad’s booming laughter from across the beach where he was playing catch with my sister and other brother; it made me laugh. I studied the way the laughter sent quivers down my throat, how it made my body shake, how it filled me with so much joy. I heard my sister laughing when my dad fell in the sand. I watched the seagulls fly around in circles high above my head and heard them singing their songs to each other, and it was a beautiful sound. I watched the seashells along the shoreline glisten in the sunshine and listened to a thousand voices in the whispers of the wind.

In that moment I felt something wet clinging to my leg and looked down and saw Ashton looking up at me and smiling, wet and covered in sand. He was always happy and I couldn’t help but smile back at him. I looked over my shoulder and realized that I could still see the footprints left behind by Ashton and I, and I watched as the waves made them disappear. Ashton got my attention back and said, “Can we make our sandcastle now?” I looked at him and shook my head yes. Once we found a spot that he liked, we settled down in the sand and began to build. He was independent and wanted to do everything by himself, but I managed to help when he wasn’t paying attention.

When we were done building, the sun was just beginning to set. The finished sandcastle wouldn’t appear to be anything special to an outsider, but to Ashton and I it meant everything. It was lopsided, missing pieces, you couldn’t tell the front from the side, there was no door, no indication that it was a sandcastle, yet it was absolutely perfect. It was something we had done together. He looked at me with so much joy and kept chanting, “Tee Tee, I did it! I did it! I built it all by myself.” When I looked at him and our sandcastle, I felt like a ray of sunshine. Everything around me was bright despite the fact that it was closer to nightfall than daylight. It was the kind of thing one only saw in the movies.

As I watched our sandcastle, a wave suddenly crashed onto shore in the place where it rested and washed it away. I just stared in disbelief at the place where our sandcastle had vanished, and all of a sudden Ashton started crying because he realized his hard work had been washed away. If felt like my perfect moment had burst into flames. I walked to Ashton, who was still crying, and picked him up. I looked into his tear-filled eyes, and was struck with sudden determination. I wiped away his tears and said to him, “Ashton, just because the water messed up our sandcastle doesn’t mean we can’t fix it again. When you get much older, you’re going to learn that sometimes life is going to mess up your sandcastles and make you sad, but you have to get back out there and fix them again.”

I don’t know if he understood me, but something made him start smiling again. I put him down and we began building again, but this time I picked the spot. By the time we finished, the sun had gone down and the moon had come up. The light from the full moon was just enough to see our little sandcastle and it looked no better than the first. It was lopsided, missing pieces, you couldn’t tell the front from the side, there was no door, no indication that it was a sandcastle, yet it was absolutely perfect.

Once again I saw my brother wearing a huge grin and I smiled with him. Just then my dad called saying it was time to go in, so I took my brother’s hand, looked at our sandcastle for a moment, then walked away knowing that if by some chance our sandcastle didn’t survive the night, we would be right back out there in the morning to rebuild it.

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