It was my “after-walk”.
I’d met up with my friend, a contemporary with a lot on her plate, at 7:15 a.m., where, with iced coffees in hand, we briskly walked back and forth on the sidewalk spanning the length of the beach, a nice six-mile trek. Having burned some decent calories, we then went to the diner near where our cars were parked, and indulged in a King’s breakfast of omelets, toast, hash browns and more coffee. With nearly two hours of chatting about our children, our parents, our past, current and future partners and even a little sex, drugs and rock, we parted ways with a sweaty hug and kiss. We’ve done this walk many, many times, making for easy, honest and raw conversation. Nothing is off limits and we never run out of things to discuss. (aside: love you, Becky)
As I neared my car, I turned my gaze to the beach below where the tide had just gone out, leaving behind a treasure-trove of rocks, shells and sea glass. I took the dozen or so stairs down to the sand, an empty coffee cup in hand, and began to walk off some of the calories I had just joyfully ingested. Alone on the beach, my pace was slow, my head was down and I was pushing away that pesky little voice reminding me of the long list of things I needed to accomplish in the day ahead.
“I’m right behind you”, I heard.
Realizing that she might startle me, an 80-year-old woman in brand new walking shoes approached with a tentative smile. I was still raptly scanning the ground below when she made a comment as to how little sea glass there was this year. I rattled and extended my cup, now nearly half full, and told her that she wasn’t finding any because I had it all. Her face softened and she smiled more warmly.
We began to walk side by side, chatting intermittently and lightly, both of us paying attention to the artifacts littering the sand. As if having been planted for just such an occasion, we each began to spot piece after piece after piece, each one leaving sand under our fingernails and little sparks of joy at having spotted them.
Not far down the beach was a tide pool, long and wide enough to preclude us from crossing over, forcing us to re-walk the ground we’d already covered. I lost count as to how many times we retraced the same patch of sand, but it was many. We paced back and forth, conversation never waning as we collected sea glass and sisterhood, despite our thirty-year age difference.
In those nearly 75 minutes of walking, talking and collecting, we learned a lot about one another. We talked about our children, and she, her grandchildren of which she has four. We shared joys and challenges we’ve faced: marriages, divorces (mine – she’s been married for nearly 60 years), deaths, professional successes and disappointments, life events we’ve cherished and those that broke our hearts. We laughed with the shared experiences of all mothers and wives and had tears come to our eyes while recounting sadnesses we’d endured. While certainly a less saucy conversation than earlier in the morning, it was no less raw.
When it came time for me to part ways with this, the second badass woman of the morning, we, too, shared a sweaty hug and kiss, but not before I told her that I am a writer and would love to write about our time together. Even better…can we take a selfie? She happily obliged.
We spoke about a lot of private, personal and even scary things, the details of which are not my story to tell; the beach is kind of like Vegas – what happens there stays there. However, I was touched by her honesty and honored to have earned her trust..
Thank you, lovely lady. I know you appreciated my attentiveness. What you might not know is how much I appreciated yours. I’ll be looking for you on the beach…and will be sure to leave some sea glass for you.