For example, I'm hyper. I talk loud. I laugh loud. If I've had even a smidgeon of something to drink, I tend to slap down on the table like my dad does, as a means of added emphasis if I find something funny. With nine children, all that energy and brightness and bluster gets filtered into a proper context. No one notices how loud I am as a strange thing, they view it as a survival skill. I'd tell you this was a calculated evolution born of practical maternal need, but that would be lying.
On Saturday, we went to the beach where the beach house once stood and I walked over the mound, all that remains of what was a house that stood for almost 85 years. There was rope and debris imbeded in the sand. There were shards of what was tile in the bathroom with its distinctive honeycomb pattern.
We took a bowl that I remembered. It had once held gumbo cooked all day, or home made fudge sauce over bluebell cookies and cream or jalepeno cheese grits. Now it held sand. I decided it would be cruel for a bowl to survive a category 4 hurricane and get crushed en route in the cargo hold of a plane so I would give it to my sister to keep. Then I collected some shells for my children, avoided the washed up man-o-wars and filled a water bottle with some of the Gulf of Mexico.
I stepped into the water.
It was about 25 degrees below what I expect when I see the beach, as was the air. My life memories of the Gulf almost never included April. But the beach is still the beach and even though the beach house is gone, the essence of what I loved remained with all its wild growth glory. The gnarled trees that seem to scratch the air as they carve and twist their way up out of the ground still scattered about the landscape. Wild flowers with their garrish deep orange, bright yellow and blood red petals and politically incorrect names dotted the grass. There were stickaburrs and driftwood and people walking with old dogs. They didn't know us but still stopped to say hi and begin sharing stories. The neighbors who had saved the crockery invited everyone in including the blind 17 year old dog.
What did we talk about? A 4 thousand dollar broken part of a plane that became a clock, the way things looked at the first flyover, about selling a business and finishing a deck, about back surgery and the reality that everyone suffers, rich, poor, everyone, but how you respond is what matters. We talked about what they remembered, what they saved, why they were staying and what they hoped. "I wish you could stay longer." the former King of Mardi Gras and neighbor said. They offered drinks, even dinner. That' is the essence of the beach, you always welcome everyone and you always wish everyone could stay longer. It's my vision of what being Catholic really is.
Looking at the ocean and the sun and feeling the wind even as I was told it was time to go, I wanted to walk the shore for hours like I used to, and like then, if time had allowed I know I would have not felt tired until I was dehydrated and sunburned or stung in a careless moment. Most likely, all three. Only then would I have felt I'd gone far enough to turn back. Most of the time, my life, my home, my mind and my body are busy. The beach, that beach, was and remains a place where my life, home, mind and body would quiet even as they kept doing. So I miss more than the home that celebrated most of my birthdays, I miss the opportunity for those seemingly timeless walks to nowhere that weren't for fitness and weren't to get to a destination.
(Yes, that's what it looks like but this was a pre Ike photo posted on the Facebook Bolivar You Have to Love it to Like it page).
On the way back to Pearland, I bought a pint of Pralines and Cream (my favorite) and ate more than most of it. (I shared a little with Mom. Dad had fried chicken). When I got back to Maryland, I took my husband outside and rolled up his jeans. I poured the Gulf on his feet and he smiled. If we could not get to the ocean, the ocean would come to us.
"Did you have a good trip?" He asked.
"Yes. I did."
But I found I'm more myself here than anywhere else. Everywhere else, who I am doesn't make as much sense, nor does all of me fit.