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Lost at Sea

This is from an assignment about loss and the lessons learned. Specifically that one moment of pain or grief is only a blip in the grand scheme of things. Hope you like it :)

The very first object I remember losing was a small, plastic whale. I was six years old when we went to the beach that summer. The shock of the freezing ocean waves was a perfect reprieve from the blazing, summertime sun and burning beach. My sister and I spent the morning running in and out of the water, kicking up globs of wet sand as we went. Seagulls’ shouting, music from boomboxes and the chatter of happy families filled the air as a soundtrack to the perfect August day.

But of course, as with most children, I began to lose interest with playing the same game. As my parents have told it, I determinedly made my way across the sand to where our towels and bags were and rummaged around before pulling out my small collection of ocean figurines. With hands that were too small to carry all of them, I managed to dump them right where the surf of the waves met the beach before beginning to dig a “miniature ocean” for my toys, oblivious to the tide creeping higher and higher up the sand.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty as they say.

Ignoring the gentle brushes of salty water against my toes, I dumped a bucket of water into the newly dug hole and declared my project to be complete. My favorite toy was a small, shiny humpback whale and I gave it the honors of being first in the tiny, handmade pool. The obvious next step was to grab the other toys and drop them in as well. So, with the tunnel-vision focus of a child, I looked away to begin my task.

In a memory born of childhood horror, I can see everything in a morbid slow motion. Realistically, the large, crashing wave slamming against the beach and swiftly dragging unattended items away with a strong current only took a few seconds.

My family’s serene vacation was shattered by the shrieking cries of a child as she watched her favorite toy disappear in the blink of an eye.

My parents did what most parents would have done and proceeded to comfort little kid me as I sobbed over the perceived death of a plastic whale. My sister helpfully pointed out that whales live in the ocean, so really, he was just going back home.

It is safe to say that the loss of the plastic whale didn’t have a huge traumatic impact on me, and the rest of the vacation went by happily and with only a few sunburns. But every visit back to that same beach brings up the memory; whether from my own thoughts or from a family member finding the story amusing. And while it is funny to laugh at now, in the moment all those years ago it was my whole world being rocked.

Because what I remember most about that day was that, despite the tears and cries of one child, the rest of the beachgoers continued with their day like normal. Seagulls still flew, boats honked their horns and families laughed and played. It was as if that one singular instance of childhood pain was only as small as a plastic whale floating in the vast ocean.

Love y'all!

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