|by Rhoda Todd|
|A Moment Between Worlds
Recently I visited Rehoboth after an absence of more than five years. Memories flooded back as we hunted for a parking place, browsed in the shops, searched for the right T-shirt, and of course ate dinner at Cloud 9 for old time's sake. I am grateful to my two friends who invited me to return to their paradise. Although I now live in Florida near the Gulf, I miss the roar and the pounding of the mighty Atlantic. Sitting on the beach at Cape Henlopen Park, on "the girls' side," I was watching the swells of the water and two little boys, dressed in brightly colored surfer pants, riding mini boards on the receding waves. I was also reading Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, seasoned with a heavy dose of conversation with old friends. Letters churned up a memory, the kind you hold onto because of the power of its message.
Six or seven years ago I was relaxing under a sapphire sky, in nearly the same spot, only it was later in the day. Most beach-goers had packed up their rainbow beach chairs and umbrellas and headed for home. But because we were on a day trip, driving down from Pennsylvania, we were staying as long as possible to soak up the last rays and somehow record the thunder of the waves to take back with us. A few other couples were scattered along the beach like postcards, reminders of the earlier crowds that had filled the air with the sound of radios and conversations. Engaged in quiet exchanges and watching the ocean, those of us left created a peaceful scene.
Suddenly, about fifty yards to my right a group of young Mennonites spilled from the dunes onto the beach. The young men began hopping on one foot, pulling off socks and shoes, rolling up black pants legs. The young women, with their little white donuts on their heads, perhaps holding in the good thoughts and fending off the bad, kicked off their shoes. They grabbed their pastel print dresses and hiked them up to their knees as they scrambled toward the surf like sea crabs. The group of ten or so ran in and out of the foaming water, dancing the dance of the Sand Pipers. We could hear their laughter as they frolicked in the surf. They were completely oblivious to the fact that they were on "the girls' side." The joy of the moment had taken over, and all they saw was a glittering, rolling ocean, inviting them to come play.
What kind of a world would we have if everyone could be blind to our differences, if we could stop putting each other in boxes, categories, and pigeon holes to help us deal with our fears? Rather than seeing what separates us, we would just experience the moment for what it is. Regardless of personal identity, nearly everyone loves the beach and the ocean; we all feel great joy and passion; we all love to laugh and forget our cares. The scene on the beach that day is the way our world should be, a blending of all the action in the picture.
As we sat and watched, we laughed at their naivet, waiting for them to suddenly see that this beach was different, that they were in the wrong place. But they never did see us. After a while they simply put on the shoes and slipped back through the dunes. And I am not sure they were nave. Perhaps in those moments they were the wisest of all of us on the beach. We blended into their world. They didn't care who we wereour race, our gender, our sexual orientation. They cared about the spontaneous joy of their feet and ankles sloshing around in a cool ocean on a hot summer day. They cared about being together and sharing a special moment. They were absorbed in the wonder of nature, that thrill we all get when we step out of the dunes and greet the ocean in all its majesty. In that moment we remember the steadfast body of water and truly think it is there just for us. The sea breeze, the smell of salty sea life, the squawking gulls, hoping to snatch a sandwich, these are the riches we all cherish.
I have a permanent snapshot of that day in my memory file. It speaks to me of unbridled joy, but also of the hope of a different world. I may see you "on the girls' side" again, but I will also dream of a time where we don't see our differences, when we are so absorbed in the moment that we don't notice who we are.
Rhoda Todd is a retired university administrator and author of A Shattered Opala memoir. She can be reached in care of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth or at email@example.com
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 9 July 15, 2005