(Harrison and me, July 2011)
His tiny hand – damp from sweat – grips mine, as we scramble down the rocks to look at the cold Maine ocean.
“Mama, look!” Harrison exclaimed. “There’s a lot of water in that tubby!”
He doesn’t remember digging in the sand at the end of last summer or splashing in the warm August waves that caressed the silken sand of Gloucester. But I do.
Last year, H’s footprints as he ran toward the water were two sizes smaller. Sitting at the edge of the ocean, he would tighten his fists to gather sand and bring it to his soft lips to taste the beach. His tongue would lick the salt from the smooth rocks, and I would lurch forward to swat his hands away from his mouth.
But today, under a hot mid-summer sun, Harrison doesn’t want to sit. He is two years old now, ready to jump in the waves and dive beneath the water.
He is fearless. He sprints toward the water, zipping past the dilapidated sandcastles, dodging plastic shovels and hopping over freshly dug holes.
Stomping his feet to gain the maximum height of a splash, he laughs and his eyes sparkle.
Harrison keeps pushing through the waves.
“I want to go deep, mama!” he begs.
I hold his hand, but he is leading the way, pulling us further from shore.
As soon as the water reaches the middle of his lime-green swim shirt, he lets go of my hand and jumps.
SPLAT! A belly flop into the sea!
His entire body – even his head – dips below the green water, and I can see his feet kicking and hands scooping.
He plants his feet on the sandy bottom and emerges triumphant.
“Like a fish, mama! I swim like a fish!” he exclaims, eye lashes dripping wet, before diving below again.
I hold onto my wide-brimmed straw hat and focus on his slippery form beneath the waves, ready to grab his wrist if he begins to struggle in the water.
But he keeps going – jumping, splashing, kicking, scooping, diving.
For nearly an hour, we play in the waves. I’m not thinking about naptime, play dates, timeouts, or sunscreen. I don’t care about what we’re having for dinner or what time we’ll get home.
When his lips are quivering and the pink has faded to blue, we retreat to our blanket for a warm-up.
I wrap him tightly, like a burrito, in a neon-blue cotton towel and he snuggles in my lap. For a brief moment, Harrison is still. My arms hug him, and I nuzzle my face into his sandy, salty hair.
We stare at the horizon, entranced by the pulsating ocean that glistens beneath the sun.
Just as I detect that Harrison’s shivering has stopped, he begins to wiggle free.
“Again, mama,” he says, taking my hand, as if he was trying to pull me up. “Again.”
(Harrison, September 2010)