Intersections – The end and the beginning at the ocean
By Nicki Salcedo
I understand why we want the world to come to an end. We want to start over. There is too much to clean up, to correct, and to understand. When we see angry arms raised and conflict at every turn, we want to wipe the slate clean. Even if it means destroying the good things that we have.
I understand why people like to go to the beach. It feels like the end of the world. If not the end, then at least the edge.
I went to the beach this summer and looked at the ocean for a long time. There is never enough time to watch the tide. All day is not enough. All week. All month. The tide is constantly wiping the slate clean. It’s why we go.
I brought the wrong book with me to the beach. It was a good book. But it wasn’t a good book for the beach. I read “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. It is a one of those books about everyone dying and civilization crumbling, then rising up again. It was a difficult book to read under the perfect blue sky and with an iguana staring at my toes. But I read it anyway.
It is probably easier to find hope in the dystopian apocalyptic future than it is to find hope today. Except I was at the beach. With my kids. There is a great deal of hope in that.
Someone told me that racism is inherent. It’s inside of us. People who say this have never been to the beach with kids.
All week I read this wrong book for the beach, and I watched my kids.
Gian Pietro was a boy from Portugal. He knew a few words in English, but each day he would seek out my son.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
My son would nod. Ready for what? I would wonder. Then I remembered that there was the ocean and the pool and soda and an endless supply of lollipops. If you live your life at the beach, you just have to add water and you have an instant friend.
Maria and her sisters were from Zacatecas, Mexico. They knew as much English as my girls knew Spanish. They did not stop to disdain our brown skin or kinky hair or our being Americanos.
“You want to play Monopoly?” Maria asked. Every day when they got tired of the pool, they’d play Monopoly. They would eat lunch together. They would laugh. You cannot tell me that we were born for conflict. We grow into it. Some of us don’t want to grow up so we can keep the laughter.
I see kids quite a bit. But I hardly ever see the beginning of a friendship. We have new neighbors who just moved from Vermont. We introduced our kids so their girls would know someone on the first day of school.
Here is how kids interview for friendship:
How fast do you run? What do you like to play? What do you like to read? What makes you laugh? What flavor of ice cream do you like?
The funny part is, kids don’t care what the answers are. If I say vanilla and you say strawberry, we are still best friends. My son runs slow, Gian Pietro runs fast. Still friends. Kids don’t even look for connections. They already know they are connected.
When we were digging in the sand, a little boy wandered over to us. He was with his parents and baby brother, but my family is a party in a box wherever we go. Three of us were jumping in the waves, and three of us were trying to bury ourselves in the sand.
“Can I play?” the kid asked. He was 5 and from France.
“Of course,” I said when my kids were being too shy to respond. “What do you like play?”
He didn’t know.
I don’t know anything about the world. Or adults. I don’t understand hatred, and I reject fear. I now, 11 years after becoming a mom and after a lifetime of summers at the beach, know a lot about kids.
I sat in the sand burying and unburying my daughter. Wiping the slate clean. Watching the tide. The end and the beginning.
“Do you want to build a snowman?” I asked the kid. He laughed. He did.