It's a cozy little beach tucked into the southern border of North Carolina. It's the kind of place where we walked to get ice cream at night during our yearly family vacation to a beach house. So many of my fondest memories involve that beach, the crazy cousins I roomed with, and the fun stories we imagined during the week. If a police officer saw a child holding another child's hand while crossing the street, they both got free ice cream-- so we made sure everyone had a hand to hold before we squashed our toes trying to walk the last hundred meters to the store on the pavement. Once we arrived, all us kids would crowd the casings and wonder at the numerous flavors and choices. Yet, it was usually the same. I would either get a mint chocolate chip cone or a Slushie mixed with every single flavor into an appealing brown shade.
On the way back to the house, we would pass the Banana Boat Bike rentals, laughing at the stories we'd had on the recumbent beach bikes. We would pass by all the amazing sand sculptures, and jump in the deep sand pits that had been dug that day. All in all, it was the height on my childhood bliss. And once the last ice cream was licked off our hands, my cousins and I would listen in as my mom began to tell a story about our imaginary adventures at the beach. One year, we were stuck on a cloud above the beach and all had to find our way back through an elaborate journey that involved harnessing dolphins and mermaids. The story-- like my bliss-- continued throughout the whole week before concluding on the last ice cream walk to the pier.
Those trips taught me how to be a child. Yet, I also learned valuable lessons about growing up-- or not growing up. I learned from my older cousins what to do, and not to do. I learned from my feisty aunt-- who never failed to get down and dig the deepest sand hole my mind could imagine-- and my storytelling mom, that you can still have the joy of a child no matter how old you are. Some of the memories are so valuable now because that time in my life is over. My parents are no longer married. My family no longer goes to Sunset Beach. My cousins have grown up and we've gone out into the world. And some of those loved ones who sat with me on that beach, are no longer on this earth. That's why I want to remember. I want to know all the details, save all the memories-- because someday I want to give my children that same fairy tale of a summer vacation that developed me into a family loving adventure seeker who will never truly grow up.