Ebb and flow

Thoughtful reflections of a family vacation

Special to The Sun City PacketMay 30, 2013 

For 25 years, our family has vacationed on Hilton Head Island. We started this annual event when our children were young and have continued the tradition as our children married and then had children of their own. No matter what other trips we may take during a year, our week at the beach with our family is the highlight.

This year, as another vacation came to a close, I sought a few moments to reflect before our farewell dinner. My thoughts turned to all aspects of our beautiful week together. I thought of our fun days on the beach playing in the sand and the ocean. I remembered our laughter as the breaking waves eroded our sand castles and tipped us over time after time. I smiled as I relived our epic struggle against the wind to put up our canopy. The afternoon we felt sand dollars beneath our toes as the ocean advanced and retreated was a rare and extraordinary experience. Ebb and flow, ebb and flow -- the rhythm of the ocean.

My thoughts drifted to our arrival six days ago. The ebb and flow of the ocean, as majestic and mesmerizing as it is, is not the only change of tides that occurs at the beach. Just as the waves rush for shore peaking and frothy, we surged to the beach excited and expectant. Just as the waves stay ever-so-briefly on the shore before they are pulled back to the sea, so we claim ever-so-briefly an interlude of family time before being pulled back to our other lives, to the real world.

Although not as poetic as ebb and flow, the words explosion and implosion also surfaced in my mental reminiscences. I smiled ruefully as I visualized, as if from a high perch, our three cars arriving at our pristine beach rental. Within seconds, a literal explosion occurred as doors flew open, we all climbed out, and with the intensity of a colony of ants, we unloaded suitcases, bicycles, coolers, groceries, toys and beach paraphernalia. I pictured as easily the implosion earlier this afternoon when our every belonging was stuffed into bulging containers and squeezed into gorged vehicles.

My thoughts meandered to the ebb and flow of the island itself. I felt empathy for the weary residents who prepare for the influx of tourists in the high season and yearn for the return of their peaceful and settled lives that the season interrupts. Under the canopy of summer, a weekly procession of ingress and egress occurs as visitors arrive for their break-away time at the beach and, at week's end, scuttle back home.

In my reverie, I pondered the ebb and flow, the changing tides, represented in our three-generation family -- the ebb of baby boomers, the rise of the '60s and '70s generations, and the flow into the era of the 2000s. It is, as my father used to say, the roll of generations. Knowing this to be true was little comfort as melancholy began to spread through me. I regretted my reflections had gone so far afield. Rhetorically, I asked why life can't stay just the way it is. Why must things change?

"Grandmama, we're ready. It's time to go." My darlings snapped me back to the moment.

"OK. I'm ready, too." Leaving my melancholy behind, I went to join the others grateful that their excited voices reminded me that except for change, I wouldn't have them to love.

Ebb and flow - the rhythm of the ocean and of life.

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