Thursday, August 31, 2006

Leaving the Shore

I grew up in this little seashore town, whose population swells ten-or twenty-fold for three months out of the year. I have year-round memories, of course. The summer memories are informed by the Coppertone ads (I can still smell that cocoanutty sweetness) in which the little Scottie pulls at the bathing suit bottom, revealing (what was then) an enviable tan line. (Judging by the folks I've seen here these last three days, there are still many aspiring to that look, cancer-causing though it may be.) My summer childhood was, essentially, one long day at the beach, with a packed lunch and a mom who changed my bathing suit and powdered me every time I came out of the ocean.

It is in the ocean that the lessons I learned in Catholic school about God had their context and began to make sense. In the ocean, yes, there was silliness. I remember being with a friend, and imitating the one leg cocked flight of Pixanne (the star of a Philadelphia area children's show modeled on Peter Pan), and laughing until we choked on the salty water and panted with exhaustion. But in the ocean there was also the intimation of eternity, of something large and delicious and dangerous that could pick me up and throw me around, and could cradle me and soothe me, and could thrill my body in ways I later learned could be described as erotic. In the ocean I became convinced of an ultimate Other who was still somehow an ultimate With-me.

Going home today, to landlocked life; a little surge of the tide within.

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