Monday, September 5, 2011

Celebrating life

I know this bed and breakfast, tucked away on the outskirts of Lincoln City, is the perfect getaway spot when I see this little sign. Mom and sis see it, too, and roll their eyes, laughing, nodding in agreement. It's true, they tease me. But really, it is true, and that's partly why this place feels so inviting.

We're just three girls - "girls gone wild," Mom's precise theme for the weekend - savoring a rare mini vacation together. It's our first time all together at the Oregon Coast without Papa. And on top of that, we're celebrating Mom's entrance into a new decade. I marvel at how she hasn't aged a bit in her youthfulness.

Settling into our quaint B&B transports me to a beach cottage. The pale blue walls make me feel a nostalgic, childlike kind of happy, like sitting on the beach overlooking the rolling ocean waves, beneath the blue canopy of sky and fluffy clouds on a sunny day with a cool salty breeze blowing through my hair. The comfy beds add to the allure, covered with plush pillows and colorful quilts. I think I may not want to get out of bed. And while this is quite understandable, given the fact I haven't had a real bed in over five years, it can be a setback when I wish to get up early enough to enjoy a run on the beach before breakfast. So I compromise. I set my alarm for an early wake up call, and when it vibrates near my ear in the morning, I contemplate getting up for a few moments, then shut it off and burrow snugly into all those pillows. I'm on vacation, after all.

The funny thing is, I don't recall ever having pillow fights with Mom when I was a kid. But now, now it's a different story. As she's grown up into a grandma, she's become more of a kid, still as feisty as ever.

Mom and sis are as alike as they are different. Ever the snuggler, Mom cozies up to sis as much as she can, and I smile as I notice that my sister's space bubble has shrunk over the years.

Ahhhh, Lincoln City, how I bask in your beauty. Since moving to Washington state from Oregon, I haven't missed a thing about living in Portland, with the exception of my family, a few friends, and the Saturday market downtown. I'm sorry, dear Oregonians, but I honestly feel that Portland's got nothing on Seattle. But this one thing I envy: there is no comparison between the Oregon coast and the Washington coast. I'm not even sure we can call our coast in Washington a coast. I'm just saying.

As a child, I miss those weeklong vacations in Canon Beach and Lincoln City. The beloved trademark distinguishing these two beaches, in my opinion, are the rocks jutting out of the water up and down the Lincoln City coastline, and this is precisely what I loved as a girl. Their rugged beauty, calling to me, inviting me to climb barefoot, sit atop on their perch and enjoy the view. The trick always has been climbing down before the tide comes too far in.

Within an hour of arriving in Lincoln City, it seems, we are eagerly exploring. Trying to find our way from the B&B to the beach. Mom is as excited as me to slip her shoes off and feel the cool sand between her toes, dance in the chilly waves, feel the burn before the numbness sets in.

The most Papa ever did at the beach, with regards to the water, was take his shoes off and dip a big toe in. He always said he was content with that, that he didn't like to be cold. I guess sis inherited that trait from him, so I was a little surprised when she stepped in with both feet to test it out. The cold doesn't do it for her like it does for Mom and I, but she stretched herself and I think that's admirable.

I remember swimming in the Oregon coast in January. I'd be in my swimsuit and a pair of shorts, jumping up and down in the waves for a few minutes like I needed to find a restroom really badly, until my legs turned like lobsters and I got up enough courage to either doggie paddle around or dive beneath a wave. I liked to think of myself as a body surfer, because I didn't have a board, but I always knew I would have been a good surfer.

I don't know if I'd go swimming in the ocean in January anymore, since my body thermostat seems to have a lot less tolerance for freezing cold. Or maybe I've become more of a wimp. But I still love to jump those waves, and when I do, I imagine I'm ten years old once more, and my Papa's sitting on a towel nearby watching his crazy girl.

I love that we laugh. That we stick out our tongues and dance around doing funny kung fu moves in the sand and repetitively quote scenes from a ridiculous movie we watched and laugh some more. It's unreal sometimes, how when tragedy strikes, sometimes we think we'll never laugh like that again, never be silly like we used to, never really enjoy life as we did before. But somehow, with time and practice and grace, we learn to find our laughter again. We find it together. And somehow, I think Papa can see this and joins in our laughter.

One of God's gifts to us this weekend, in honor of Mom's birthday and our first time returning together to the coast, is a sunset of tropical proportions. What I mean is, it's like mango and guava and papaya in the sky, and I rush to the sunroom with my camera poised, ready to capture it and drink it in before it slips away.

It's a different season, a different feeling, being here at the coast, just the three of us. We enjoy each other's company, as we always do, and I have this sense that Papa's presence is lingering with us, quietly. I can almost hear his laughter, bursting from his belly, like he's just told a joke, or sitting beside me on the sofa chair in the sunroom with a book, gazing contentedly out at the ocean. I feel him in the air here, and when I look behind me, I almost expect to see him.

Happy 60th birthday, Mom. We all love you dearly.