I’m six and I run with my dad towards the water, the beach is the size of the universe, the tide so low. I feel we are walking in the middle of the ocean and I can reach Africa any minute. But we stay in São Vicente, Brazil, splashing wet sand behind us as we run, as we get closer to the first waves that will soon touch our feet. It’s eight in the morning, the first glorious day of our summer vacation. The smell of the sea, the little white shells shining on the sand make me dizzy with happiness.
Every year we rented an apartment at the end of the boardwalk. It was a one bedroom with a Murphy bed in the living room where I used to sleep. My favorite thing was the balcony that overlooked the sea and, on the left side of the building, a path to the bica, a mineral water spring at the foot of the mountain. In the afternoon, when we came back from the beach, my father took two gallons to the fountain to get fresh drinking water. He used to wave at us on his way and I stayed on the balcony, waiting for him to come back, taking in the smell of the sea. The mineral water he brought tasted like a splash of happy summer.
Forty years later I am in another Brazilian beach with my son, a thousand miles from São Vicente. We walk along the sand, looking for crabs. They hide so fast. We can never catch them. Every day we study the tide chart and wait for the lowest point to go all the way to the coral pools to see the fish, sea urchins and shells.
My son looks at me and says: “Let’s run to the coral reef.” I look beyond his wet dark hair, see the sand and the green sea, so big it can take me all the way to Africa. I kick off my flip-flops and say: “Let’s go!”