It was early morning on Padre Island and I had already decided to get on the road and make the 6 hour drive home to Houston after ringing in the New Year with one of my oldest and dearest friends on South Padre Island. The weather had not been our best friend this trip, high winds, cold temperatures and rainy skies had kept us from venturing out too much. The low hanging clouds had engulfed the island in a blanket of gray with only brief moments of sun light streaking through every now and again. In retrospect, it was a blanket I needed. It comforted me in familiarity with my kindred soul, a sister from another mister as they say. A sister of choice who I shared my mother with. We went to church on Sunday at Chapel by the Sea. Kim sang out all the hymns I didn’t know as I remained quietly standing beside her. I translated the preachers words almost instantaneously in my mind as my perceptions and understandings of the scriptures he read and stories he told didn’t quite mirror my own beliefs but at the core still resonated.
Afterwards we brunched with ladies of the isle 30 and even 40 years our seniors and I was amazed at their combined history and journeys as they sipped mimosas and devoured sugar dusted donut balls. Over the next few days we shopped, napped, read books, solved the worlds woes and fed each others spirit with gentle nudges of truth and observations. I was in a safe harbor to laugh, cry, explore or to do nothing more than be if that was what I needed.
Several years back we had spread my mother’s ashes on the north end of the National Seashore. We hadn’t gone out there this trip and it seemed odd to not go and pay some sort of homage but it just never happened with the rain and cold. I was just resigned to it I think.
And then my friend asked me as we sat perched high over the gulf of Mexico from our “Ivory Tower” , watching the gray waves wash in and spotting a few bundled up beach combers searching the sand for treasures, “Are you sure you don’t want to go see Wanda?”. It was like one of those brief breaks in the clouds where the sun comes shining thru, if only for a moment, like a spotlight on center stage. I knew where I needed to be and what I needed to do. Not for Wanda, but for me. I had spoken about it briefly a few days before. The need for a cleansing, a chance to wash off the previous year and start anew. A clean slate for the new year ahead.
I grabbed a few beach towels and still in my Vera Wang PJ’s we headed to the north shore. The wind was howling and you could feel the gusts push the jeep from side to side every now and again as we traveled down the main highway. We reached the beach entrance, sand dunes piled high on either side. The sand was wet and deep but no real challenge for a jeep. I rolled down my window and breathed in heavy doses of chilled salt air. We passed a few fishermen who where stubborn enough to brave the cold and rough surf in the hope of catching a few silvery pompano. Two heron stood watch as if they had a vested interest in the fisherman’s success and it made me smile.
We drove further up the beach until we saw the spot we loving call “Wanda’s Beach”. The tide was coming in and there we were. There was a frothy foam on the top of the water from the constant battering of waves. I laughed to myself and said a silent thank you to Wanda for the soap! A prayer of protection and a silent meditation and then I stepped from the jeep and began to disrobe. The sand was cold on my feet, the wind bit at every bump and bulge and yet I continued to undress. Here I was, rapidly approaching my 56th birthday, 225 lbs of insecurity and a slight fear of water, marching into the waves. I didn’t run or plunge but with a steadfast purpose walked into the ocean. Letting it take me one step at a time, one wave at a time to a new year. Not a new me but a truer me. Not as scared, not as insecure, not as mournful for the loss of my mother who was my best friend in the world. The waves were rolling in. One minute waste deep the next up to my neck and floating, my feet swept up off the sandy floor but still capable of moving forward.
That’s the choice….to move forward. A wave lapped over my head and I knew, forward can be many things. I embraced the waves and now it was time to embrace the chilling air. I turned and made my way back to shore just as slowly and deliberately as I had walked in. And there, on the shore, was my soul sister to welcome me, wrap me in her blanket and arms and share the moment. My heart was beating through my chest and I gasped for air as I clung to her. I never felt warmer or more alive.
This was why I was here. To acknowledge that feeling of vulnerability and insecurity you are left with when orphaned on earth with the lose of a parent. To finally take all the things they had taught you and instilled in you and use them on a daily basis without their prodding.
I am stronger than I give myself credit for. I am brave. I am kind. I am that I am. And so my sweet, are you.
I love each and every one of you.
Copyright Juliana Wathen 2019