by Donna Byrd
I was thirteen years old and my family had taken a day trip to Topsail Beach on Labor Day weekend. My brothers, sister and I had spent the entire day body surfing and riding the waves with our long, plastic, “blow up” floats.
The sun was beginning to drop down toward the horizon and I noticed that my mom was shaking the sand out of the beach towels and gathering up the clutter we had created throughout the day. Little piles of shells, coral, smooth stones, sunglasses, sunscreen and magazines littered the old quilt we had spread over the sand to be our “open air” room for the day.
“Donna, if you want the shells you collected today, you need to put them in one of these paper cups. Come on and help me get ready to go.” She handed me a Dixie Cup and I scooped my treasures up and put them in my beach bag along with my magazines.
I had decided early that morning that I was going to act like a teenager all day. I was going to spend my last day of summer “laying out,” soaking up the last rays of the summer sun, taking a long walk along the shoreline and reading my new “Seventeen” magazine. I didn’t want to go swimming and get in the water above my waist because I would get my hair wet! Today was the day I was going to act my age! It was time to grow up!
But the ocean was beautiful. The gentle swells were perfect for body surfing and floating. My siblings were out enjoying the water and I was sweating it out up on the quilt trying to read my magazine. Suddenly, I wanted to be eleven years old again, out in the surf, playing with everybody else. Even Dad was in the water! It wasn’t fair. I changed my mind and decided I didn’t want to be grownup. I could be a teenager next summer. I got up from the quilt and ran toward the water like a little girl, saying, “Wait for me! Where’s an extra float?” I was going to be a kid again, just this one time.
We stayed in the water all day. When my mom asked me to help her get ready to go home I packed up my things but looked back longingly at the water. I knew I wouldn’t be back until possibly the next Memorial Day and I had to go back into the ocean one last time, to tell it goodbye.
“Mom, I packed up my stuff. I need to go in the water for just a few minutes longer. Please?” Without waiting for her answer I took one of the floats we hadn’t yet deflated and ran toward the water. Saying goodbye to the ocean was something I had done each summer when I was a little girl. I even said my farewells to our town swimming pool when I went on the last day of the summer season. The pool was my fair-weather friend, a friend I spent many hot, lazy summer afternoons with and to not tell it “goodbye” would have been rude…mean. I would swim like a mermaid down near the painted blue bottom and say, “See you next year, old friend,” the bubbles surrounding me filled with the air of sadness.
I ran into my warm, salty friend and as soon as I got into knee-deep water I fell onto my float, paddling out a bit deeper. As I began to rise and fall over the friendly swells, I looked around to see if anyone was looking. Feeling a bit childish, I put my face into the water, opened my mouth and said my farewells. “Blessings on you my friend. Next time I see you, I’ll be one year older and maybe too old to talk to you. But thanks for letting me splash in your warm water today and making me so happy. I love you. ‘Bye ’til next summer.”
The sound waves bubbled out of my mouth, down to the sandy bottom of the ocean floor. The blessing was released from the dissipating tiny bubbles and it and moved onward, traveling beyond the fishing pier and past the sail boat I saw out in the deep water. Reverberating, it went on next to the shrimp trawler and then on toward the horizon.
Everything it touched was blessed; the little fish, the big fish, dolphins swimming after the fish, shells and coral on the ocean floor and odd sea creatures down in the nooks and crannies. The acoustic waves turned into a kind of song, journeying on towards the Gulf Stream where it was picked up and carried north by the strong, warm ocean current, taking up the blessing song to the coast of the eastern United States, then upward to Newfoundland where it joined with other songs sent by children like me.
By then, the song was an anthem and moved into the powerful North American Drift only to become a symphony of praise as it rushed toward Western Europe’s shore in a crashing wave of glory on some foreign beach.
My thirteen year old girlish mind imagined that this was exactly what happened when someone whispered words of thanksgiving into the sea’s warm, summer waters. I wondered how many children on the receiving end of the European beaches sent “thank you(s)” and “farewells” into their ocean waters at summer’s end and if the swells and waves I played in were carrying symphonic, song waves sent from thankful children on the other side of the Atlantic. A circle of praise? I rose up with the ocean’s swells and my heart was smiling.
I am now rather old and still tell the mighty ocean “goodbye” when I leave it for the summer. I no longer care if anyone sees me talking to its rising swells and crashing waves. I send my thanksgiving song into the water and let it join with the countless acoustic waves that have traveled the ocean’s currents for centuries. I stand my ground on the edge of the shore, waiting for the symphonic praise to break over my feet. It still makes my heart smile.
It’s not too late to say your goodbyes to Topsail. Check availability for the next four weeks at www.treasurerealty.com