Life was crazy busy on Long Island, NY, right next to the Big Apple – the City that never sleeps. I lived there nearly twenty years, often living life too fast, too full. In those days, I had a busy husband along with four lovely, fun-loving, beautiful, busy daughters. We lived and worked at a private, busy boarding school. I worked part time jobs AND raised my daughters. I set my art-making aside, something I regret, but I put one hundred percent into caring for my husband, my girls, and my home.
During that season of my life, busyness could often be confused with significance, especially for this growing follower of Jesus still learning how much I was accepted and loved by God apart from my efforts. I read through my Bible fast, over and over. (Now I meditate on one or two verses per day, slowly.) I drove fast, I ran fast, as fast as I could to train for a half-marathan. I ate fast, I talked and listened fast. Life was fast.
Sigh. Breathe. All the busyness and fast pace living would ebb away as I piled my four daughters in one of our old cars and headed to the beach – hopefully by mid-morning. Each summer day. We lived minutes away. Running away from busyness to live on the beach was our dream. We packed sandwiches that wilted, snacks that gave out too soon, and beverages that had to be replenished at the beach water cooler. As we pulled into the Bookhaven Bathing Association, simply known as the BBA, my tense shoulders would fall slack, and sudden joy would permeate by soul. We had made it to the beach once again, and we would be OK. My daughters would spill out of the car laughing with brightly colored shovels and pails, ready for deep exploration in shallow pools.
We set up beach chairs and blankets, being careful to keep sand off, knowing full well the blankets would be full of sand by day’s end. The girls would scream and run into the water on hot days. I entered more slowly. On cooler days, the girls kept on their sweatshirts until the heat reached our swath of the beach. I’d set up my low chair right near the waters edge to dangle my feet in the playful tide. Friends would call out to each other; the kids would spot mysterious sea creatures and shout happily to each other to come look. I always found a fellow mom there.
One big highlight of the day was for Vinnie, the ice cream man, to arrive ringing in with his cheery music. The girls would beg me to stay long enough for Vinnie to come. I usually gave in. (I was happy to get my cold, cardboard-like nutty cone!) The girls would get snow cones or bombs or popsicles if we only had dimes that day. What joyful memories I have of their bright red or purple tongues and lips from their late afternoon beach treats. Their hair might be blowing wildly as they licked their delicious, sticky, sandy treats.
As the girls got older, they enjoyed inner tubing on the inlet waterway across the street from the BBA. A spit of water would begin there and then lazily curve around the Gamecock Cottage and onto the edge of the Long Island Sound. The trick was to stay close to shore when your inner tube went around the Gamecock Cottage. This was high adventure, and a sort of rite of passage if you did the inner tube around the cottage trip. We have one or two harrowing stories of that not quite happening, and the girls needing rescuing by a passing boat! Legends were made on those days.
The girls grew up, and life changed. One day, when I had started painting again, I walked down to the shore’s edge of the Gamecock Cottage. It had just finished raining; the tide was dead low. With the sun coming out, I thought there might be a reflection in the water. I slipped and slid through the grasses and mossy sand. I was not disappointed. There was, indeed, the reflection the sun had made possible. I had slowed down my busy life, enough to catch the first glimpse of a brand new reflection on the water’s surface. No one was around. It was quiet. It was sacred. I sketched a little, I photographed the moment, and headed home as the now, full sun, beat down on me. I finished the painting on my kitchen table.
Today, I received an email that my 16×20 museum quality gicleé prints of the Gamecock Cottage are being shipped from my printer in Seattle. (Of course I’ll give each daughter one.) It was probably 20 years ago that I painted this, but my dreamy beach memories are as fresh as if they were yesterday. I am so thankful for these memories with my girls, and for all the sacred “slow” times we had at the BBA along the Long Island shore. Well, except for those near drifted out to sea memories!!!