I have been visiting East Beach Rhode Island since I was a baby girl. Literally a baby. This is the beach of many family vacations beginning with my grandparents. I have possession of a photograph of a toddler version of me running on the beach, about two years old, smiling with my hair a salty, wind tangled mess, wrapped in my Miss Piggy towel.
An opportunity to go back was presented when I visited my best friend a couple of weeks ago. Despite growing up two hours away, she had never been. Instead her family frequented the Connecticut beaches along the Long Island Sound. So we agreed to go explore the beaches of Rhode Island and see the one I love above all, East Beach.
As soon as she turned her car down the dirt road that would lead to the opening of the beach dunes I rolled down my window. When the familiar smell of the briny sea air filled my nose, I felt a homecoming. And knew I was about to become quite wistful and nostalgic.
Oh, the sentimental nostalgia!
My aunt, the eternal optimist, would encourage us that the haze hiding the sun would “burn off” and promised we would see the sun. That never happened on the days I went there.
I remembered the day my cousin was stung by a jellyfish in the softer waves of the salt water pond across the dunes. Ugh – I still remember her posture and that scream of sheer pain she let out. I shuddered recalling my own panic because I was right next to her in the water. She still has the scar, more than 30 years after the sting.
The art of building sand castles was mastered with the golden-brown beads of broken shell & composites that make the softest New England beach I’ve ever met.
My uncle, the inveterate jokester, terrifically frightened me out of the water by swimming up to me, as I was bobbing neck deep in the waves, that “this” is where Jaws is from (Rhode Island). I didn’t go back in the water for the rest of the season.
My brother and I chased and tormented another aunt’s best friend around the pond with hermit crabs we snatched out of the water.
I fed countless seagulls cheese doodles, chips, and any other object I tossed directly up in the air. Those stinkers never let a scrap of food hit the ground. I camped along the dunes with my grandfather and grandmother….
I. Love. East Beach.
It’ll burn off, she said.
For the first time in the thirty-some years I have been visiting this perfectly perfect little piece of heaven, the haze “burned off!” I rechristened my feet in the chilly water as I walked in the surf’s edge. Soaking in the sun and the salt, I silently celebrating the serenity that comes with this salinity.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain