“Mama, some time could we please stay more than just the one day at the beach? I want to sleep there so I can hear the waves and then wake up and play all day in the water,” I remember being so hopeful as I pleaded. “Well, son. One day our ship will come in and we’ll stay at the beach as long as we want,” my mother replied with so much assurance that I still believe it to this day.
Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy. They all bit the dust in due time. For me, all my Mom had to say was, “One day our ship will come in…”. I was hooked. Still am. I wanted things. I dreamed and I fantasized. I believed. She often told me, “You take away a person’s dreams and you take away his will to live.” I estimate I’ll be around another 200 years or so. My list is long.
My mother loved the beach. She talked about it. She collected sea shells my whole life. For a time she created her own seashell mosaic on the outside of our house under her kitchen window. I guess that’s where I got my love for the sea, but for my entire childhood I never remember a time that we stayed more than the one day at a time at the beach. We’d get up early, pile in the car and make the 2 hour drive down to the coast. Late afternoon, my father would announce, “Y’all get in the car. It’s time to go home.” More than once he had to wade into the surf and pull me out kicking and screaming. I’d rather risk a whipping than to leave the beach and many times I got one for not coming in when he called. I’d sit facing the rear window of the car, straining to see the water for as long as I could. Each time we left to go home I’d start dreaming about when I might see the sea again.
As an adult I’ve made many trips to the beach and spending the night near the sea is always just as magical as I imagined it would be. In her last years, I even took my Mom to the beach a few times and we felt like our ship really had come in. We’d talk on the phone, we’d conspire, we’d make plans and off we’d go. I could see it in her eyes. She thought the sea was magical, too. That, and the fact that we thought we were pulling a fast one by slipping out of town without getting caught.
I guess that’s why I now find so much comfort at the beach. Sometimes, I just stand there on the shore watching the waves roll, tasting the sweet salt of the sea on my tongue and scanning the horizon. I still believe that one day my ship will come in. Except, now I long to see that ship come in to view with something more meaningful to me than anything money could buy. I want to see my loved ones waiving from the rail as it comes closer to shore. There’d be Mom and beside her my grandmother and grandfather. Mom was Scarlett O’Hara, Lucille Ball and Mother Teresa all in one. My Mimi was a great character. She was spoiled first by her brothers and then by my grandfather, hence the nickname, “Sweetie Pie”. My grandfather passed on before I was born, but people have always told me he was a great man, so I just want to know him. And, I also have great news to share with them.
I want them to know that even though we were sad to see them go we have carried on as best we can and we think of them often. As time has passed I still miss them, but now it’s getting easier to remember the best of times we had. I want them to know that all the love and care they lavished on us was not wasted. The grandchildren are now grown and most have started families of their own. Mom got to meet most of her great grandchildren, but some new ones are on the way! Remarkably, I see a little bit of them in each of the children. Somehow it all works out. I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Mom, I’ll be back on Tybee soon. I’m staying in a beautiful house right on the beach. I’ll be looking, so y’all get up a load and sail by if you can. I’ll be looking for the ship to come in.
And, if you happen to see me standing there on the shore, looking out on the horizon you can come join me. You don’t even have to bring small talk. Just help me look out upon the ocean. One day my ship will come in. It’ll be carrying what I most want in the world.
It’s about dreaming so that I might go on living the life my mother wanted me to have.
It’s COTTAGE CHEESE!
Happy Mother’s Day, Mother Dear. Happy Mother’s Day, Mimi. Happy Mother’s Day, Y’all!