Settling In

Having grown up in the land-locked Midwest, I didn't feel very attracted to the oceans. I visited the Pacific only a few times when I lived in Claremont, CA for three years (graduate school). I enjoyed it, but it wasn't the thrill I had imagined it would be. I found myself longing for smaller waterways--streams, rivers and waterfalls, like the ones I grew up visiting in the Indiana State Parks. The largest bodies of water I saw growing up were the Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan, where we often went camping in the summer.

There was this great campground called Orchard Beach. It was simple set of camp sites and a bath house. But if you went into the woods at its edge and walked a few feet, you would encounter Lake Michigan in full fury! The shore is filled with huge, jagged rocks and the waves crash against them constantly.

My mom loved this place, and insisted we camp there whenever we went through Michigan. The first thing we'd do when we arrived was don our swimsuits, pick up our towels and slip on our flip-flops. Away we'd go in eager anticipation. I never told my mom, or anyone else, for that matter, but I always felt a mixture of fear with our collective excitement.

Would this be the time I'd be swept off the rock into the deep abyss of the lake?

We'd climb up on the rocks and brace ourselves against one. I'd choose the biggest, sturdiest one I could find. I also made sure I could see my mom at her perch. She'd yell, "Here it comes!" and a wave would crash against our bodies...I can still feel the mild sting against my skin. I can smell the water in my hair

We'd laugh and giggle, shake off the water and wait for the next one. You have no idea how rare it was to see my mom laugh and smile and just be silly. I guess that's why the excitement always overcame the fear, and I always looked forward to the next time.

And the deep never got me.

Now I am living two blocks from the Atlantic. I walk there at least once a day. Yesterday, it rained, and the beach was deserted in the afternoon, when I was able to take a break and walk down there. I sat and looked out over the water. The air was wet, and the waves crashed onto the shore a little more fiercely than they had the day before. I wanted to go out in it and feel the waves lap at my feet. But alas, my feet have succumbed to that dreaded side effect from diabetes--dry, cracked skin. I didn't dare.

So again today, I sat for awhile on the boardwalk and looked out into the sea, with all the little bodies splashing around while their parents sat beneath the relative anonymity of beach hats and umbrellas. It was so calm today, hardly a wave mustering up enough energy to reach up the shore to where I would have stood, had my feet been well enough.

A few more days of bandages and Neosporin and I will wade out again, daring the waves to knock me off my feet. No rocks to cling to this time, and my mother's voice--even her laughter--is too far away to hear. I guess I'll have to stand on my own.


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