Dan and I escaped the city heat, over the 4th of July, and took the kids to Rhode Island, to a home that belonged to his late grandparents who had a penchant for seaside towns.
We’ve been going there annually – pre-kids – for the past decade. It took me some time to warm up to the place. I grew up frequenting the bustling boardwalks of Atlantic City, lights and music from amusement parks beckoning, salivating over the pastel displays of salt-water-taffy.
New England beaches felt unfamiliar, their stony shores and quiet expanses of vast grey-blue sky. And the lighthouses - which eventually became my touchstone - their steady flicker on and off – even through the fog.
It was our children who taught me to love this place, who inspired me to explore the surroundings, whose curiosity helped Dan and I unearth treasures in the dresser drawers – family photographs: his grandfather decked out in a sailor’s cap, his grandmother in full party attire.
With the kids, we explored the history of the town at a local museum – wandering through an old schoolhouse and washing laundry in a metal bucket; they were enthralled by the experience of hanging it to dry with wooden clothes pins over the line.
I am – I have come to terms with – a creature of habit. Rituals and routines keep me grounded. The school year, with its frenetic pace, feeds a certain need for order. The summer – the ocean – wide expanses of space, where I’m forced to stop, are both nurturing and anxiety ratcheting.
It’s impossible for me to stand at the ocean without praying. It’s impossible for me to avoid thinking of both life and loss. To be so profoundly grateful, and also hold the idea of impermanence. The waves riding in and out.
We fell into a rhythm, the four of us, by the ocean: swimming, playing competitive games of Monopoly, picking out evening movies, standing on the porch and watching the fireworks turn the sky into an explosion of color.
The children knew just what to do when I dropped a fresh blueberry pie on the front steps. They knelt down beside it and scooped the salvaged parts into their mouths. I admire their instincts.
Soon we will enter the days of awe, the beginning of Fall and Rosh Hashanah, opening ourselves to the cry of the Shofar. There is a clear call to action, to reflect, repent, to begin again.
But we’re still in summer. The hazy days of less structure. The next Jewish holiday we observe is a somber one, Tisha B’av.
It is necessary to realize where we have been and what we have lost, to appreciate what we have built and continue to build.
The ocean reminds me of this. It makes me think of origin. And return.
Rhode Island has become a sacred place to me. Being there with Dan and the kids has made it a home. I will hold it in my heart until we return.