The beach is a happening place. People of all shapes, sizes, and ages walk past the dunes and let their hair down, and people watchers are guaranteed to see interesting sights, some that that make you smile and others that give you pause for thought.
Here are some things I heard, saw, and smelled within five minutes as I walked along the strand.
- “Daddy, I caught one, the young boy said, holding up a tiny fish for his father to see. His dad laughed. I grinned.
- A few steps further brought the smell of cigar smoke wafting my way, and instantly I saw its source—a middle-aged man sat in a beach chair, smoking cigar and fishing. Ah, the life of Riley, I thought.
- And then there was a grandfather with frizzy gray hair walking along cradling his his sleeping blonde-haired granddaughter. The toddler was leaning against his chest and shoulder as he cradled her in his arms.
I realize the above might not seem that spectacular, but I jotted them down later for one reason: they all lifted my spirits. Love, relaxation, and joie de vivre were common themes of all three scenarios.
As I continued my walk along the beach, I began thinking about my hair and the hassle of coloring my roots every few weeks. Such a bother, I thought and wondered how much longer I would be willing to do it. Within seconds, I spotted a woman who appeared to be about my age or a little younger with no hair at all.
She was playing with grandchildren and talking with her adult children as though she were the happiest person on the beach. And it’s not like she was trying to hide her baldness. On the contrary, she was not even wearing a hat to protect her scalp. She wore large fashionable earrings in her lobes, and sported a lime green cover-up. Her message seemed to be live and love every day!
Embarrassed by my vanity and humbled by her appearance, I walked on. I observed people throwing Frisbees, football, darts, and horseshoes and soon forgot the grandmother. But not for long.
On my return trip I saw her from a distance as she stood in the edge of the water with several little children. The other adults, likely the children’s parents, sat in a semi-circle a few feet away. I looked from them to her and back to them again and locked eyes with one of the young women. She was taking a video of the bald woman in the lime green cover-up who was laughing with the children in the surf. Mother and daughter? I wondered.
I backed up and walked behind the group rather than between them and the group in the ocean, and as I did, the photographer/video-taper gave me a thumbs-up. Sobered, I walked back to my spot on the beach. That evening, I shared that scene with some family members, reinforcing the fact that people and love and memories are more important than looks, money, and prestige.
“So does that mean you’re going to stop coloring your hair?” someone kidded.
“No, not yet,” I said. “I’m not as far along the path as she is.” They knew what I was trying to say, though. Live, laugh, love.
Six weeks later, I’m thinking of the little boy who caught a minnow, the cigar-smoking fisherman, the toddler-toting grandfather, and the grandmother in lime. Where are they today? Do they have moments when they recollect their moments by the sea and smile? I hope so, and I hope all will find a way to rekindle the joy they demonstrated that summer day.