I was thirteen the first time I ever saw the Gulf. My life to that time had been utterly surrounded by the Chesapeake, and the Gulf seemed so different, so foreign, I wasn’t sure I would like it. In fact, like everything else about this impending move, I was sure I would hate it.
But I didn’t. We moved in August that year, right after I had turned fourteen and had started my first year of high school. We moved to St. Pete Beach because Dad wanted to be near the water and it seemed like a centrally located place to be (okay, now I realize anything that requires a bridge to get on and off of it is not centrally located at all, but at the time I bought the argument). I was miserable. I’d left all my friends behind. I was having to share a room with my sister, who was constantly trying to argue that we should share a bedtime. She was eight. I had a ton of homework. It wasn’t going to happen.
Probably the second week we lived there, I discovered that I could walk to the beach. Okay, I admit. I’m not much of an investigator, but there you are. After that discovery, I walked down almost every day, sat on the sand, and let the Gulf wash away my misery. It worked because it was pretty quiet and the Gulf isn’t loud or obnoxious or difficult.
The next bunch of years were intermittent visits to the beach (usually Clearwater) with friends who were visiting from “up North.” We’d all play, get burned, and enjoy the water. I have always loved water.
When I was in college, six of us went out to the Gulf as a way to cement our friendship. We took a picnic dinner and drove to the beach and spent an afternoon/evening hanging out, talking, and having a wonderful time. Interestingly, of those five other people, I still talk to two of them. I remember walking on the sand and thinking about how we would always be friends — like the Gulf would always be there. Guess I was somewhat wrong on both counts.
The summer after Ben was born, P and I took a small vacation at Sand Key. I was worn out. I had worked too much and I really needed a break. So, we took three days and enjoyed the long weekend at the beach. We spent a lot of time searching for shells and walking in the surf talking about our dreams, our hopes, and our fears. The coolest part of that trip was the fact that I found an almost intact sand dollar. I’d obviously seen them hundreds of times in gift shops, but I’d never found one of my own. I still have it.
We have been planning to take Ben for his first trip to the beach this summer. We used it as a reward for getting fully potty trained, which he now is (yay, Ben). But now we have to contend with the damage that greedy people have caused. My heart breaks when I think about the fact that my confidante, my safe place isn’t so safe anymore. I have to wonder about what it’s going to be like until we can get the oil out of the water. I wonder if we can ever put it back the way it was or if we can ever fully understand the damage that we’ve done to the environment and the ecosystems and the people who rely on the Gulf.
I love my Gulf and I want it back. This post is part of the Love the Gulf blog carnival being sponsored by Caroline at Morningside Mom, Deb at Deb on the Rocks, and Maria at Mommy Melee. Please make sure to check out their posts and check out the other linked posts on their blogs.