It was the baby's first time.
He was slathered with sunscreen, but there was less than precedent called for; he wore a hat but it didn't match; he had no special sticker indicating the amount of UV exposure on his chubby left arm;
this is the blessing of Second Time Around--a little more relaxed we've become...
We took pictures, but he won't remember.
He couldn't know that the ocean is where his mother meets her God.
That she grew up close to the sea, brought home from the hospital to a tiny apartment on 16th Street, right off of Balboa Boulevard in Newport Beach. That her headbands were used for structural support in castles made of sand. That her pale skin was once bronzed; that she rocked the hottest diaper tan.
He couldn't know that later, her mother and brothers would have to wind through the Santa Monica mountains, breaths held as they passed over the mountain's crest, first view of the ocean falling on excited eyes trying to discern whether the fog would lift, whether the sun would come out to play.
He wouldn't know that she was the one who persuaded her camping friends to leave their tents on the beach for a dew-soaked night sleeping under the stars, sea spray matting down 12-year-old hair, smearing mascara that shouldn't have been there.
He won't be able to picture the iridescent blue-green glow, radiating from broken waves that night. He won't hear their crash and the lightening-like charges of light that flew across the foam for one joyous invitation to listen in on God laughing.
He couldn't know that nine years ago his father took an ocean-sick girlfriend away from Tallahassee's hills to the Gulf to invite her to join him as lover and friend for the rest of their lives. Or, that their honeymoon would be had overlooking the ocean in Barbados; or that three years later her Grief-Consummate would manifest on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific, where her uncle would breathe his last as she stood at his bedside.
He will hear about it, but won't be able to fathom the very experience that ushered him into this world. That God would whisper to his mother the morning before his birth,
I will be with you in deep waters.
That she would find each contraction present like the commanding waves of Zuma. That she would take a deep breath, dive into its power and then emerge, tired and weary and grasping for rest before the next wave. That fear would never own her, that she would let herself go to the ancient rhythms of childbirth, promise in hand, God standing by.
Death and life and promise and grief, have all been met by the sea.
God speaks of his majesty, of his forever-ness through the endless horizons. He says,
"you are but dust"
with the sand that creeps between the toes. He says,
"I am Big"
with the stretch of water from the shore to where it meets the sky. He says,
"I know you"
when happenstance finds me, again, at the shore, for a time of celebration or mourning. He knows I meet him there, he knows I worship at the water. And he keeps bringing me back.
Walker met the sea last week, for which I am glad.
But my heart's cry is that he meet its Maker, the Grand Designer of it all. The call may not come through the roar of a breaking wave, but may it come, loud and strong, until my son is brought to the feet of the One who knows him best.