“What is the Bravest Moment of Your Life?”
“Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.” – Franklin P. Jones
From the day I was born I had the luxury of not having to wear shoes. It wasn’t because I was simply born without legs or because my single mother couldn’t afford them. It was plainly just because I lived at the beach. Not wearing shoes was one of the many benefits I had while growing up. On the little Island I grew up on I was surrounded by 3.2 miles of land and 1.4 miles of water and that’s all I needed. I learned early in life it was the simple little things that made a life great. It wasn’t owning a membership to the local country club or flying away on private jets. Instead it was the annual Easter on the beach my mom planned for all the locals and their families. Life on the beach was simple and to a little girl simple was great.
On the little Island I grew up on there was only one school, and it was a small catholic school with about 10 kids in each grade. Every morning my mom and I biked to school and the school itself was quaint, and it wasn’t a rare occasion to see your teacher dining at the only place that served desert on Thursday nights or on the first few rows at the Baptist church in the middle of the Island. I always found it to be ironic that the Catholic School teacher attended the Baptist Church service instead, but I was never the student to question. The school was filled with laughter and love, and I frequently would see my mom chit-chatting with the other moms on her bike waiting for the bell to ring for my dismissal.
Looking back at all the memories I acquired as a child they were mostly spent at the beach. Every great accomplishment I achieved as a child was made on the khaki sand I walked on. I took my first steps on the beach, I learned how to ride a bike on the beach, I learned how to do a cartwheel on the beach, I learned how to snap my fingers by listening to the pattern of the waves break and I experienced my bravest moment at the beach. Many hours of my life have been accumulated at the beach including countless naps sleeping in my pink princess tent while I fell asleep to cheering of people winning the game of bocce- ball.
When I was little my mother always told me “I could do whatever I set my mind to and nothing was impossible.” That quote has always been special to me because when my mom was 19 she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and couldn’t walk for over a year. She was told she would never walk again and she would never be able to have children. Today she has beaten all odds and I have never been more proud to call a woman my mother. Being brave was something that my mother always implemented about in my house. It wasn’t a choice, it was something you did without ever fearing fear.
When I was little my mother surfed frequently and I would always watch her while digging in the sand searching for Sand Dwellers. We were both determined in those moments, she was determined to master a skill that at one point would’ve been impractical and I was determined to find sea creatures something that was a little more sensible. My mother and I were never afraid of the ocean, to us the ocean was always a place of peace and faith it has always been our safe place, however when I was 6 the ocean was not so friendly to me.
As usual on the weekends my mother and I loaded up the car with every beach essential item and headed down to the beach with our favorite ice cream in hand. That day we chose a different part of the beach that would not be filled with many people. My mom was sitting in her chair reading her book while I was building a sandcastle. Growing up at the beach every child is aware of what a riptide is and what do in case a rip tide prevents you from getting out of the water and I was no exception. It was getting hot and my mom and I decided to go in the water and swim. We stayed in the water for a little while and my mom said it was time to get out of the water and go back to our chairs because she could feel the current starting to strengthen. We started to walk out of the ocean and the current began very strong. Rip Tides typically start closest to the surface and become exceedingly strong quickly. My mom scanned her eyes across the beach and saw no one. She grabbed my arm and we started swimming parallel to the shore aiming to get out of the current. The riptide was too strong and my mom and I grabbed onto a Jetty slamming against the attached barnacles. Our bodies were being over-taken by each wave and we could no longer see the shore by the waves doubling in front of us. We were screaming for help and in those moments I knew how scared my mom was holding both of our lives in her arms. One around me and another around a Jetty making sure we wouldn’t go under for long. We kept repeating how much we loved each other and how we would be okay. I reassured her in the middle of each wave break that God was there and we would be ok. I didn’t want her to panic even more than she already was even though I knew that probably wasn’t possible.
There was some people renting a beach house and they saw us from their balcony and immediately called 911. The coast guard said there was no way they could get there in time to save us and somebody needed to help us while they were on their way to us. A couple of the guys got their surf boards and lined them up in the ocean to get to us. We both held onto them and got out of the water after 10 minutes of holding onto the Jetty’s. They made sure we were ok and sat with us until the ambulance and the Coast Guard arrived. When the ambulance arrived they gave my mom and I antibiotics, cleaned our wounds and placed creams around our bodies. We were bleeding for a while from the barnacles and eventually we had to place bandages on parts of our arms, stomachs, and legs. Since then the beach has returned to being both my mothers and my happy place but now we both carry a little more sensitivity when we step onto the scintillating sand.
Growing up on the beach was always a luxury for me because most people just got to experience it once a year unlike me who got to cherish every day at its side. The beach will always be my favorite hiding spot and it will hold many of my first’s accomplishments. The beach is not only my place to breath purely but it is also my place to think clearly. Almost drowning in the Ocean with my mom has to be my bravest moment in my life because in that moment I not only worried about myself but my mom too. I tried my best to let her know everything would be ok and put aside my worries to protect her. I was ready to face whatever danger or pain was placed in front of me. In that moment having courage was my only option I put aside all my fears and made sure to stay calm, holding onto faith to keep us alive and safe. My mom has been my biggest supporter through everything and has guided me to be brave. Little did she know our biggest bravest moment would be achieved together.