Saturday, January 21, 2012

When a Baby Meets the Sea

I'm in love with a baby. Really. He's not even mine, but I love him so much I could just smoosh his face all day forever. It's like when I see how cute my dogs and cat are -- but friends, he is not a dog or cat, he is a baby. A human baby with human tendencies and a brain that learns things and a mouth that says words in English and two legs that work [almost] just like mine do to get from one place to another.

I'm in awe of my nephew, Henry, like he's the first baby I have ever seen. I look at him and I'm amazed. Even after a year, I am amazed that he is a person who breathes and laughs and moves and thinks.

I am amazed that he is the creation of the love my two best friends share. They're in him -- his fingers, his ears, his squinty grin. When I'm with them, I admit, I will just sit and stare and can't believe he was grown in my friend Cassie's belly. Like a vegetable, only not. But kind of.

It's weird.

Sometimes I laugh at the level of awe I feel, as though I've just found out babies aren't delivered by storks.

In all honesty, this amazement with life stops me in my tracks quite often. Life is amazing; it is incredible that we are here, and even more incredible that we can communicate with one another the way we do, and feel what we feel -- good and bad; that we can live in peace with animals, who are also miraculously here, astounds me even still. That we eat food, which also grows or lives and comes from nothing, but now nourishes us.

To quote Louis C.K.: "I'm still amazed at the shit in my life."

So many people my age have babies now (thanks to Facebook, it's easy to keep track). I knew babies growing up. I was a baby at some point forever ago. But with Henry, it's different. He's the first of his kind:

Babies that actually mean something to me.

I've spent very little time with babies -- or kids, even. Growing up, my friends would always babysit, and were easy-going around babies; it was 2nd nature to them, and they were naturals by the time they reached adulthood. But me? I'm pretty sure I didn't change a diaper until I was in my early-20's, and even then, I was scared to death. And grossed out.

Babies were not my jam.

But Henry and his growth is a learning experience for me, and I don't take the opportunity lightly. His milestones excite me, his joys make me squeal, and his cries challenge me.

So when I was invited to join Matt and Cassie in Half Moon Bay at Poplar Beach for Henry's first visit with the ocean, I couldn't pass it up.

And something strange happened.

It was as though I was seeing the ocean for the first time, too. Watching a young child look at the ocean and feel sand/salt water against his feet without really understanding what it all means, where it all comes from made me think...

... just how grateful I really am. Oh, how long I've taken the ocean for granted! It has been my neighbor for my entire life and seeing the wonder/confusion/excitement in Henry's eyes reminded me that it truly is spectacular.

Can I ever really appreciate it, though, being as used to it as I am?

It reminds me of a line from one of my favorite movies, The Legend of 1900. The main character, 1900, grew up on a ship and has never stepped foot on land; the ocean is his home. He sees thousands of people a year stand in awe of and communicating with the ocean, yet he cannot.

"It's like a big scream, telling you that life is immense. Once you've finally heard it, then you really know what you have to do to go on living. I can't stay here forever. The ocean would never tell me a thing. But if I get off, live on land for a couple of years, then I'll be normal, just like the others. And then maybe one day, I'll make it to the coast, look up, see the ocean, and hear it's scream."

I can never really know what it's like to see the ocean for the first time. In some ways, I envy adults who get to experience that. Perhaps they've lived in the Mid-West their entire lives and seeing the vast, open sea is the event of a lifetime. Sounds, smells, air they've never experienced. Unrivaled.

Imagine that.

Experiencing the beach with Henry was meditative for all of us. We've all grown up here, a mere hour from this place. Henry will, too. He'll never remember what it's like to see the ocean for the first time; his summers and friend's birthdays will be spent splashing in its waves and building castles in its sands. The roar of the waves will be familiar and friendly, not foreign and frightening.

He won't remember his first time, but we will.

* Images property of Stacy, The Sleepy Peach

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