Ana Veciana-Suarez

My happiest memories are one with the sea

The peacefulness of the water’s edge at the beach.
The peacefulness of the water’s edge at the beach.

Every once in a while The Hubby and I get into this useless discussion about moving somewhere, anywhere — as long as there’s no traffic, the weather is cooler and house prices more affordable.

“How about Iowa?” I suggest, because my youngest son lives there.

“Landlocked,” he replies.

“Gainesville?”

“Too far from the ocean.”

“Asheville?”

“Forget it. No water, just mountains.”

Here’s the deal: The Hubby cannot imagine living more than a car ride away from the Atlantic or, if push came to shove, the Gulf of Mexico. Even the Pacific doesn’t make it to his desirable list: too cold.

Both of us have lived most of our lives near an ocean, with beach towels stacked on closet shelves, sunscreen in the bathroom cabinet and aloe in the fridge. We have beach shoes, cover-ups, chairs and umbrellas, a sturdy dry box for the boat, pails and shovels and all manner of digging toys too.

I spent practically every summer Sunday of my childhood frolicking in the waves. Cousins joined, sometimes my parents’ friends, and we would make a day of it, eating, playing, swimming, building crooked sand castles by the shore. My happiest memories are one with the sea.

Sticky skin after a dip.

Taste of salt on my lips.

Sand through my toes.

The scent of brine in my nose.

Breeze whipping hard through my hair.

And the sound of waves lapping ashore — oh, what a comforting sound, this thumping, watery heartbeat.

A couple of days ago I came across a story in a business magazine website (of all places) about the health benefits of the beach. While the rest of the country begins to think about beachside vacations in May, we in Florida think about sand and surf year round. It’s part of our aquatic nature.

Anyway. The article cites studies that prove what we human fish have long known. “The beach,” the articles points out, “is one of the best places to alleviate stress and heal your brain.” Something to do with the whooshing of the waves, the calm blueness of the water, the yielding of sand underfoot, even the smell of the ocean mist.

For me the attraction to the ocean is a family thing, a genetic claim that has inextricably weaved itself into the strands of our DNA. Family scrapbooks and photo albums are chock-full of scallop-edged, black-and-white photos of relatives in beachwear, some of it outrageously funny. Fashion has changed over the decades, to be sure, but some things remain constant in each scene: the blissful smiles, the stares of contentment.

My late mother was born in Sitges, a beachside village just south of Barcelona in the northeast corner of Spain. From her childhood home, on a street named for her uncle, you can hear the murmur and sigh of the Mediterranean, a body of water with so many kinds of blue that there aren’t enough synonyms to describe the variety of hues.

Most of her family members still live there, and when I visit, when I dare to imagine what my life would’ve been like had my widowed grandmother not fled Spain after that country’s civil war or if my parents had never met on a Caribbean island swaddled in, you guessed it, saltwater, it’s easy to see myself lounging under a striped umbrella in a foreign country. Sand in my toes, wind in my hair, saltwater sticky on my shoulders and thighs.

For many years I thought we would eventually move — or retire — to a home that offered a front-row seat to an uninterrupted blue line stretching the length of horizon. I doubt that will happen now, though the death of that dream has less to do with sea-rise and more to do with affordability. But that’s the way of life, surrendering, accepting, substituting,

So I conform myself to weekend dips in the Atlantic or boat rides through the Gulf, knowing that I am destined to never stray far, never live away from the wide, blue world that always calls me home.

(Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at avecianasuarez@gmail.com or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.)

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