This post is from The Red Dress Club Remembe(red) prompt: Your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory.
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I smelled the ocean before I saw it. It sprawled out in front of me, vast, blue, twinkling in the sunlight. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore? Magical. I inhaled deeply, breathing in the saltiness, the essence of the Atlantic Ocean. I closed my eyes, knowing I looked silly; I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to get lost for a moment.
I have always loved the ocean. I grew up within a few miles of the Atlantic, so close that I was sometimes able to smell the salt water on my way to the dentist’s office. On weekends, we would take my dad’s boat out to the Keys, or make the trek out to Key Biscayne, which is near Miami Beach. We’d picnic at the marina when I was small. We’d go to the beach, sometimes as a family, sometimes it was just me, paying 60 cents for a ride on the city bus as a teenager.
It took me two hours each way and 4 different buses to wind my way across Miami all the way to South Beach. I’d start out early in the morning, throwing on my bikini, cut off jean shorts and tank top with my Doc Marten boots (I was too cool to wear flip flips…back then in the early 90’s, no one wore flip flops) and throw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and frozen bottle of water in my backpack along with a pack of smokes and one of my well-worn journals. By the time I made it to the beach – through 2 connecting buses, a Metro-rail ride and another bus – the frozen water was melted and my pb&j was soft and squishy. I’d step off the bus onto Washington Avenue and that’s when it hit me – the smell of salt water and the ocean breeze.
I’d walk the two blocks to Pier Park, my favorite spot on South Beach (also the southern most point) and take my boots off as I crossed the dunes, throwing them into my backpack. I wanted to feel the sand between my toes as quickly as possible. There’s something about feeling warm sand between your toes – I think it’s just about as relaxing as any massage. It was if, the moment my feet hit that sand, I was somewhere else. No more parents, sisters, school, friends, homework, pressure…I was on the beach. My escape.
Sometimes on these trips I would be joined by friends for company and that was always fun, but I especially enjoyed the times I went alone. I would sit on the beach, staring out at the ocean, dreaming of floating away. I could sit and stare at the ocean for hours. I would often be inspired to write poetry, or spend time chatting with the random beach bums looking for spare change among the beach chair rentals, or I’d take a walk along the shore looking for shells. But mostly? I would just sit in the warm sand, digging my toes until they were completely hidden, and just watch the waves roll in.
I wasn’t very happy as a teenager. Those trips to the beach, they calmed me, soothed me, refreshed me. I loved the ocean. I felt alone, separated from the world, but in a positive way. When I was at the beach, nothing could touch me. It was a chance to recharge, unwind, clear the slate. I would imagine that my sorrows were being washed away, one by one, with the waves as they rolled away. The sound of the tide rolling in, it has a way of mesmerizing, hypnotizing, consuming every thought until I was completely at peace.
When I smell the ocean, I think back to my solitary trips to the beach as a teenager. I think about how those trips helped me maintain my sanity. And I smile, a teeny tiny thank you to the ocean.