My brothers and I piled into the station wagon while our mother stocked it full of the usual beach necessities: a huge thermal jug full of iced tea, pails & shovels, magazines, suntan oil, beach towels, a blanket and a big umbrella. This particular July morning was chilly, hazy and overcast. The drive to Sherwood Island in Westport, Connecticut, felt longer than usual from the woods of Bethel. I was anxious to get my feet in the sand.
I was 12 years old listening to Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" on the car radio. Sitting in the backseat, I stared out the open window as the wind flowed through my long curly dirty-blonde hair. The warmth of the sun shined on my freckled face, my innocent green eyes watched as we sped past tall trees, southbound on Route 53.
Cracked tar was covered with sand, the roadway leading to the beach hadn't been fixed in years. My brothers and I scrambled out of the car as soon as it was parked, grabbing things from the back of the station wagon. As my mother ran to catch up with the boys, I staggered behind.
The sun broke through the haze, the clouds were gone. I walked slowly on the path of tall grass and sand, past the shaded area full of tall trees and lush green grass, hibachi grills and picnic tables. I walked with confidence for the first time ever, wearing a sky-blue and white bikini. An unfamiliar type of music blared from boomboxes in the picnic area, a type of music I had never heard before - disco. I turned to look in the direction of where the music was coming from.
As I turned my head, I noticed a boy. He was sitting on a picnic table about 20 yards away, with his feet resting on the bench. He was tall, about 6'2", with smooth dark skin. He stared at me, didn't take his eyes off of me.
The world slowed down at that moment and sounds were muffled. My eyes met his and we both smiled shyly at each other. My grin grew as he whispered "hi" and waved just a little bit. I kept walking slowly, still looking at him and smiling as his eyes sparkled and his smile grew even bigger.
For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt to be beautiful. A boy I had never met before gave me that gift.
I ran down to the beach where my mother had laid the blanket and propped the umbrella in the sand. My brothers played in the water with a bunch of other kids while I walked out along the stone-breaker, watching the waves crash upon them.
Here I am today at the age of 52, and I can still smell the salt air of that day, hear the seagulls and the waves, feel the sun shining down on me, and I can still see that boy smiling.
One year ago today, I modeled for a photographer in Flagstaff, Arizona. During the past year we became close friends. When I told him this story of the summer of 1978, I knew it was him that I saw. Sometimes life hands you exactly what you need, and it's a sin if you don't reach back and take a chance. Our journey together begins today, nearly 40 years after we met, and one year after we found each other again.
Do I believe in fate? I can say this - "I am no longer skeptical!"
I am living the dream, one day at a time, and sharing my experiences with you.
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© 2016 ZUSHKA BIROS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.