I am obsessed with the sea. This river isn’t that, but it stretches out for eons. I gaze at the horizon, misty and distant. My parents grew up in Connecticut and I was born in a small town right outside of New Haven, only a five-minute drive from the shore. Long Island Sound, I think, shaped me more than I can remember. I have vague blurry childhood pictures of being at the beach when I was little, walking down a woodsy road with a yellow line in the middle and thick trees on the sides, until we reach a little wooden shack with stalls where we could change. In other still photos I see Mom showing me how to listen for the ocean in a conch shell, talking about seahorses during a sunset, walking along the shore combing for smooth rocks, shells or colored glass. My life was colored with the scent of saltwater until just before I turned six.
We were eating McDonald’s food for lunch the day Dad told us he got transferred. I still remember the taste of the salty fries in my five-year-old mouth after he told me and Randy, we’re moving. I didn’t think I much cared. We traveled often enough, all over New England, to Santa’s Village in New Hampshire and other amusement parks in Massachusetts and Vermont. My dad used to be a policeman, and oftentimes he had to work nights, but it seemed like we always had time for vacations. Then Dad decided to join the FBI and had to go to a place called Quantico for sixteen whole weeks. That McDonald’s lunch—a special treat reserved for special occasions—was so soon after his return. We moved to Buffalo at the end of that January, while Mom was newly pregnant with June.
And it’s true what they say sometimes in books and movies and in that old song, “Big Yellow Taxi,” done originally by Joni Mitchell, you really don’t know what you’ve got until after it’s gone. There is no way to calculate how much something means to you, especially when it’s something you always see, something you live with every day, like a nearby ocean and a nearby Nana. Those things creep up on you, so invisible and insidious until they’re a part of you that you can’t live without.