About 50 years ago, (yes 50), I went through some difficult times and moved from the Bronx NY to Long Beach NY. From a sixth story apartment in a building in a concrete jungle to a suburban house 5 blocks from the ocean. Now, I was very familiar with Long Beach as my grandfather had a cottage in the West End of the town that we would spend summers at. I learned to love the water at the ocean and learned to swim at the Capri Beach club where we had a cabana. (Now those were the days!!!). I felt both comfortable and at home in the water. So when I moved to my Aunt’s house suffering from severe OCD and other divorce related traumas I immediately exhaled just inhaling the ocean air. Then, when a neighbor introduced me to surfing, I literally entered the ocean and only emerged to eat and sleep, and well eventually get stoned as well, although the latter was possible on the surfboard. It took a couple of years but the ocean and surfing healed me, (at least the surface wounds), and I spent a good five years dedicated to the surfer’s life. I was fortunate to be introduced to the Oppenheimer brothers, especially Mike whose style and power were almost incomprehensible and through him was exposed to world class surfer’s like Nat Young from Australia.
So it has been weird, enlightening, and weirdly enlightening to be reading “William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days – A Surfing Life” where page for page, and at times world for word I see a mirror of my own immersion in the surfing aesthetic.
Even his list of music he would listen to from Neil Young, to Hendrix, to Cream, to later Beatles, and Paul Butterfield. And I would add the James Gang! The only element missing was the array of Black Light posters, which may have been specific to our set as Oppy, (aka Mike Oppenheimer), was a talented artist who would make forays into the canyons of NYC to sell his posters, (successfully).
But I digress. The point is how much I love the ocean, how healing it has been for me, and how at the first opportunity I had to be with my daughter at the beach I thrilled just to get her to feel the water. (She was willing but less thrilled as it was a bit cold.)
Now, having moved to a Rhode Island beach town, (The Ocean State!) I think always of this coming summer and being at the ocean with Missy A. (aka Freedom Stark). With that in mind I signed us up for swim lesson at the Y and this past Sunday we had our first Daddy/Daughter time in the pool. I was so happy I could not stop smiling. Not only did she look incredibly happily cute in her bathing suit…
…but she seemed super comfortable in the water and wonderfully trusting of me as I moved through the water with her, coaching her to paddle a little, float on her back, and find her way around the pool. Just rocking back and forth in the water with her established a connection that was both peaceful and electric at the same time. Jen was nearby and yet Missy A. was happy in my arms. For a Dad, with a daughter who spends most of her time with mom, and is rightfully most comfortable and safe in her arms, her contentment with me was both surprising and fulfilling. Surprising in that I thought at some point she would gravitate to mom but did not. Fulfilling emotionally and in many ways spiritually. I felt not just “my” connection with my daughter but also that she knew (somehow!) that I was in my element and that I was happy and that she was safe with me. In fact Jen, my ever intuitive wife insisted that I be the one in the pool with her knowing the above would come to pass.
I can’t wait to be back in the pool with her, and although there is a lot more winter to go, I am already excited about our family’s first days at the beach this summer….mmmm..make that this spring!