It was mid-December and I was thirteen; stuck in that kind of angsty adolescent state where I didn’t expect much greatness to happen in my life anytime soon. It was a Sunday, and surprisingly warm for a Massachusetts winter, and my dad decided it was just the sort of day for a trip to the seaside. Being thirteen, I was not so much in the mood for a day trip to the beach with my father, but I obliged, and we drove up the coast to Manchester-by-the-Sea, a small fishing village with a quaint, old-time feel.
Parking a few blocks off from Singing Beach, we walked along a marsh and through the quiet town. We dropped into a second-hand bookstore where my dad bought The Book of Images by his mom’s favorite writer, Rilke. It was a collection of poetry I soon came to love and now carry with me whenever leaving home for over a week.
When we reached the beach, the sky had darkened to a grayish blue. Only a few elderly couples dotted the shoreline, walking along the coast with their dogs. I remember the sun looked as though it was melting into the water, which doesn’t make sense seeing as we’re on the east coast, but that’s how I picture it – the sun over the water, the damp sand beneath my feet. The book in my hand and my dad beside me, looking out over the water.
I’d never really spent much time with my dad alone. We’re both fairly quiet people, and so I have this theory that we’d always just avoided extensive conversation for fear of long awkward silences. But I can’t imagine that day being spent with anyone else, and though I don’t remember any of the conversations we had, I think it was just his being there, and maybe even just the quietness, that made it special.
I remember leaving the beach with reluctance, looking back one last time and wondering if I’d ever feel that way again – full and completely content. And then the car ride back, my head leaning against the cold glass window, watching through sleepy eyes the bookstore pass by and then the marsh. To my left, my dad kept one hand on the wheel, his eyes on the road.