I don’t know what it is. Whenever I’m near a body of water, I feel alive. Like I belong there. It makes me want to run.
This past weekend I was in Cobourg visiting my step-grandparents. They live a few meters away from the beach, and I woke up at the crack of dawn every morning to go running along the sand.
It was actually my first time running on sand, and I found the experience to be difficult but exhilarating. The second morning it rained, and I found myself leaping through pre-mud with soaking feet and sandy calves.
The wind beat up waves that threatened to swallow my toes and presented sights and sounds so spectacular that I was almost sorry to be the only human to witness them. I ran as close to the waterline as I dared, maneuvering through the waves in what must have looked like an athletic dance.
I sprinted most of the beach. I’m not a sprinter but like I said – there’s something about the water…
Avoiding the tides and pushing through the sand forced my body to work in a smooth, coordinated fashion in order to keep my balance. I had to engage my core and pump my arms while keeping a sharp eye out in the semi-darkness. I was so concentrated on my full-body movements that my feet forgot to complain and my mind forgot to tell me that I was tired.
In the early mornings, the Cobourg beach is abandoned. If there is no rain, seagulls gather by the waterline watching for fish. Sometimes they fly alongside me as I run, as if they half expect me to suddenly pull out some bread and toss it. When it rains, the beach is dark and tumultuous and wonderful.
During the day the beach is packed, especially on the weekends. This weekend there was a rib fest, which sounded great in theory. But when I went to check it out the rib security people tried to make me throw out my water bottle. I don’t like people who try to make me throw out my water, nor do I understand why ribs require security. So there was a scuffle, and I kept my damn bottle.
After that it was all a bit of a turnoff. I like ribs, but I have honestly never seen so many cankles and meat gathered all in one place. There were rows upon rows of picnic tables. Heaped on top of them were piles and piles of meat. Tucked below them, a sea of cankles. My stomach turned.
The next day I went to the Cobourg farmer’s market. It was small and pricey, like most markets are, but all my favourite veggies were there. I felt much better.
Cobourg is the town where my step-grandmother moved to when she came to Canada from England at age 15. There is history here.
We took a drive through town and I got to see the house that my step-grandfather had built – the house where my step mom was born and raised. I saw the location where her parents met, where they had their first date, and where he would have to pick her up when he was courting her. They both saw the town grow from scratch.
I like history. There is something of great value in places that have significance and meaning. It’s something that I have personally never experienced from my side of the family. I don’t even have the basic facts straight.
The sad reality is that my dad’s stories about our past always change according to his convenience and whatever point he’s trying to make at the time. He tells me one thing, and then with my other sisters he will contradict himself. When confronted he will come up with the wildest justifications that can’t help but bring into question his mental state. So in the end all we’re really left with is a handful of pathetic ramblings from a possibly mentally imbalanced individual.
But Cobourg has real history. A genealogy. Stories that happened in definite places and at definite times. I’m not sure they are stories I can rightfully call my own because I wasn’t born into them. But I wish they were.
I don’t think it’s so much that I want to be my step mother’s real daughter, but more that I don’t want to be related in any way to my dad. I want to know my past. And I probably never will.
I think that’s why I’m so big on the making of memories. Memories like running on the beach at dawn, hopping waves like hurdles. A waterline where I can physically take my kids someday and as they play in the sand I can tell them, “Mommy ran here.”
And they would know that it was true.