An old friend is new again

I went to my old beach yesterday, the one where I found solace, comfort, entertainment and refuge as a child. I’ve been there a few times over recent weeks and it occurs to me that the new path over a government easement means I’ll be able to forge a new relationship with this bit of the coast.

It feels a bit like Lucy is holding football for Charlie Brown — is she going to snatch it away at the last moment? Will I end up falling flat, wounded and ashamed?

I know these fears are from what happened with my siblings when Mom died, something that was so hard to recount in the memoir that I don’t want to revisit it now. The access is over public land and I have every right to expect I’ll be able to visit the beach until I can no longer walk. But then I could crawl…? Don’t count me out.

The first task in updating this relationship is renaming it from “my childhood beach” to “the bay.” It was always the latter when I was growing up.

“Where’s Sandra?”

“She’s down at the bay with Jiggs.”

The first time I made use of the new trail, a couple months ago, I ran into a neighbour who credited a couple nearby for creating the access.

“We’re not sure how we feel about it,” the neighbour said in a tone that’s all too familiar. People who live on or near waterfront are possessive of it. I remember glaring at strangers who were on “my beach.” How dare they?

So it occurs to me that, with the exception of a few who know me, I may be viewed as a stranger. People may see my car parked by the mailboxes and resent my intrusion into their little bit of paradise. They may wonder why I keep coming to this spot.

The couple credited with putting in the trail live across the road from the trailhead. They’re living a travel trailer while they build a house. They have two lovely dogs that came to greet me yesterday as I walked onto their driveway and up to the open door of the trailer.

“Hello?” I called out.

A young man emerged. His wife was seated inside at the table.

“I just want to thank you for putting in the trail — I grew up on that beach,” I said. “I have photos of me sixty years ago playing there.”

They’d heard of my mother, who’d lived on the point for decades until she went into a seniors home. The old family home is about to be demolished — an excavator is parked nearby. I’m sure this couple know a bit of the neighbourhood’s family history, and here I am, showing up on their doorstep, creating a living and breathing connection with the past.

It was a short visit but I felt better as I left. I’ve answered some of those questions about who I am and why do I keep visiting this out-of-the-way beach.

I don’t know if Gemma remembers me bringing her here, to meet Mom 11 years ago. It was her first stop leaving the shelter. Maybe she does remember the smells of the beach, the tasty small crabs caught in the seaweed and wading in the shallow water.

Whether she remembers or not, it’s remarkable how connected she is to the place. She wanders into the water, dunks her tummy and comes out again and shakes. Rinse and repeat a dozen times.

Yesterday was a good day. I revisited the bay. I introduced myself and paid respect to the new neighbours. And in doing so I feel welcome to return and forge a new relationship with this lovely place.

Have a great day.

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