I used to think we came down here for the kids. So they could play by the surf and carry the memories with them as they got older, wherever they went. I wanted tradition. Something. Something we didn’t really have when were kids. Something T and I created together. Something good and light. Positive and innocent. But it hit me yesterday that perhaps the universe called us down here for her.
Round Here by the Counting Crows came on the radio as we drove back from the Walmart, buying burgers and snacks for the week. I turn the volume up and stare through the window, passed the reflection of myself to the ocean. To her. I was trying to drown out the words her mother affectionately calls her, like DIRT and LOSER. Witnessing the name-calling (terms of endearment her mother had for her) is like watching her being beaten. Each word, a fist making contact. Blows to the head, the heart. It rips me apart. I go into mama bear mode. A mode she’s never known.
The words echo and I picture her balancing on the surf. Her red hair reflecting the sun, traces of sand wedged in the waves of her hair. I can smell the ocean. I dive into her sadness and, as I always do, I let it envelope me.
My heart feels something icky and my eyes begin to do something totally foreign. I typically know when they will dance with my emotions and cry. I didn’t see it coming this time. Wiping these little falling surprises of wetness he sang:
Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand she said she'd like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis.
She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land just like she's walking on a wire in the circus.
She parks her car outside of my house takes her clothes off.
Says she's close to understanding Jesus.
She knows she's just a little misunderstood she has trouble acting normal when she's nervous.
We went to church together the other day. We made fun of the guy in front of us with the wedgy. It was obvious he stumbled home an hour before and that he smelled like beer. We joked and then prayed for forgiveness. I made sure I gave her space. My thigh was 6 inches from hers. I was torn.
Give her space, but I wanted her to feel me nearby.
Even if you were, I’m here. I am loser. I am dirt by your side. We shall grow sunflowers and be well-plowed. I think I was trying to say with my stature, what my tongue never really gets out- I won’t leave you or call you dirt or loser. Christ won’t leave you. T won’t leave you.
Our twenties are this horrible experiment of self-destruction and finding our way. It’s ten years of fumbling and walks of shame and studying. None of that defines you. We have to fumble our way through. All I have learned about faith and love I have learned by fucking up.
I'm proud of you for proving them wrong. They said you belonged in the grocery and to marry now, it's your only option. I'm so happy you proved them wrong but know this...you don’t have to BE anything for us to love and accept you. We loved you before the fancy degrees and textbook terminology. I loved you the moment you ran to me with bandages because I grated my knuckles on a cheese-grater making homemade baked mac-and-cheese. I probably loved you long before that. We will know when our time is done.
Long before I met you, I loved you. It is as simple as that. I have ten years on you my friend. I’m still so dumb in many ways, but I can tell you this, and it was the hardest lesson I ever had to learn-don’t ever let someone else tell you what you are. I will say again for emphasis-don’t EVER let someone else TELL YOU what you are. We are not our mistakes, we are the lessons we take from them.
Maria, I think you are the reason I come around here, once a year. Why we send letters and check in on one another. Why my babies splash in the spray with sun-kissed hair and sand in their underpants. Why I tell my daughter she’s beautiful. I think maybe I see something of me in you, but to say that may be flattering myself. I always come back every year. Something about this place,
Round here. Something radiates. It shines. It’s you.