All summer long as the endless days passed by in a blur, I had meant to take them to their favorite beach. Week after week passed until one weekend, starting late in the day, I threw a cooler chest, towels and our beach chairs into our tiny little car and took off down the crowded highway.
The air was still warm with the hum of summer light and in the back seat, I could see their warm faces looking ahead, hopeful, anticipating the sight of the vast Atlantic once more. We were cruising down familiar roads and all was well with the world.
Without warning, as we turned down the last stretch of highway, nearly every light on the dashboard lit up. A strange sound growled out of the front and I could smell the faint scent of smoke. We barely made it off the busy highway and onto a local street. By this time, smoke was pouring out of the hood. Fearful of cracking the engine block I coaxed our tiny car into the parking lot of a nearby car wash.
I looked at the dashboard thinking the worse. Glancing in the rearview mirror, I saw not dismay, but quiet concern in the faces of my children.
Our last summer day at the beach was fast slipping from us. In fact it was gone.
Undaunted, I took a breath. Grabbing my phone, I led them out of the car down to the corner. Within 10 minutes, a cab pulled up and dropped us off at the nearest car rental, and before anyone had time to think twice we were back on the road.
Before long, we made it to the long expanse of familiar sand we had been coming to for years. Barely an hour and a half of sunlight was left, but we didn’t care. The wind was warm still and all around us the beckoning smell of the ocean called to us. The waves crashed uninterrupted - punctuated by the shrill cries of the sea birds.
It was glorious.
I don’t remember any details of that precious afternoon. Rather, I recall the deep feeling of complete peace and a quiet joy. The quality of light and the sound of my children laughing. A memory I will never forget. One that I hold dear to me, as a brief, eternal moment in my children’s life. A time when they were in that tender space between childhood and little adults.
The next year Hurricane Sandy arrived and forever altered the landscape of that shoreline. The long strip of sand we knew so well was gone. Lost to memory.
Some days are worth fighting for. They can last a lifetime.