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Ordinary Life-The Beach
10/21/2008 - Jan  Bridgeford-Smith

She is running toward the ocean, arms straight up waving in the air. Her pink hooded sweatshirt and long gray pants tell the weather report for this late autumn afternoon at the beach--cool, with thick gray clouds and a constant, nippy wind.  The sand is a pale brown, damp to look at, cold on the feet. The small, beach sprite doesn’t seem to notice.  She’s caught my eye from the balcony of the hotel room where my husband and I have taken up temporary residence in honor of our anniversary. 

 

Following her every move is a man patiently waiting to photograph each new pose and posture of the little sprite with his camera phone.  At one point, pausing close to the surf’s edge, the small model turns and strikes a stance that looks oh-so familiar to me-one hand on a poked up hip the other arm straight up in the air, head thrown back, smile wide. It’s easy to tell, even at a distance, sprite imagines herself a famous dancer, or actress, or star athlete. Click, click and click again. I know this picture.

 

The summer before, my daughter, Marian, and I had been at this very beach. By summer’s end, Marian would be at college 1200 miles from home.  In many ways, this summer marked an official end—childhood for her, active parenting for me. On our last day, Marian wanted me to take her picture while she posed on the beach. I was startled, really, that she asked me to do it.  From 12 to 17, she preferred we not appear related while in a public place. Of my three children, Marian’s adolescence was the last and the longest—or so it seemed. Clearly, this summer was different. We had rumbled through the “dark ages” to a more loving place.

 

With the small camera phone clutched in my fist, we dutifully set off for a deserted stretch of beach. Finding the right spot, my daughter changed into one outfit after the other posing like she was on a fashion shoot for Vogue. She clearly loved how she looked, where she was, where she was going.  Marian laughed, she pouted, she stood, she kneeled, she rose up from the water like a modern-day Venus in denim, she put one hand on her stuck out hip and held her other arm high in the air, imagining herself a famous dancer, or model, or star athlete.  

 

I snapped away, envying my daughter’s youth yet glad to be past the tumultuous decades I knew she had before her.  On this afternoon, it was evident life’s challenges and heartaches had not yet touched Marian’s soul or burrowed into her psyche. She is blessed. The next morning, Marian left for her new home and I returned to our old one. I knew it wouldn’t be long before my daughter’s daily calls lessened to a call per week. I was right, of course.

 

Coming back from memory lane, I watch the beach couple once more. Soon, the man lifts the little sprite on his shoulders, ending her posing for this afternoon. Turning his back to the sea, he trudges across the sand towards home in the pale, evening light, a small shape with outstretched arms rising behind his head like a bird caught in flight.  For a moment, I close my eyes. When I look again the moon is rising over the water, the sand is empty, the tiny model and her photographer have disappeared. I am sorry. I missed my chance to sail a paper plane over the balcony rail offering a one word message to the vanishing pair—remember. 


3 Comments From Other Members
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10/21/2008 Mary Allan Mill from St. Petersburg FL wrote:
Oh, memories of my red haired, freckled face little girl...and the blonde boy with the mischevous smile. She's 56 with two grown children, he's 42 with a son. The telephone calls come on Sunday and we reach out and touch...it was only yesterday.
10/21/2008 Michele Moore from New Port Richey FL wrote:
Oh, Jan...how I've missed your musings. I'm so glad you're back. Thank you for the lovely reflections. As always...beautiful.
10/22/2008 Dorothy Sander from Durham NC wrote:
What a beautiful vignette. Thank you for the touching reflections.

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