The Ocean And The Baby

I have always had a fear of open waters. Despite living in California for ten years, I have been to the beach only a handful of times and have stayed resolutely away from the shore

When I was in Pakistan, my father took us to Karachi once. I wore sneakers to the beach because I had no intention of going anywhere near the sea. I came home with sand stuck into each nook and cranny of my shoes. I hated the beach. In Lahore, we used to drive by the River Ravi often. I would look at it from a distance at different times of the year. Sometimes, the water receded and I could see children running along the bank. Other times, the river swelled, its strong current bringing full nets of catch to the fishermen, frequently claiming lives of poor children who wore discarded tires as tubes around their waists to float on stifling summer days, characteristically interrupted by monsoon showers. 

It surprises me how motherhood has changed me in small yet profound ways. Over the weekend, we took Jahan to the beach to expose her to the freezing waves, the wet shore, the warm fine sand. I thought she would be ecstatic to find herself in an endless sandbox. I imagined she would rush up to the ocean. I was certain that her face would break out into a gleeful grin. But she was afraid. As soon as her feet touched the sand, she let out a mewling cry and started clambering up my leg. I was shocked. I had not factored the possibility of her not liking the beach into my expectations for the day at all. Like mother, like daughter, right? Wrong. 

I have never gone this close to the ocean so willingly and without fear as I did yesterday. I carried Jahan and walked up to the waves, waded into edge of the icy cold Pacific Ocean. I bent down and touched the water hugging my ankles briefly before receding. I took Jahan's little hand and immersed it. She looked at me, cried, and clung to me fiercely. Carrying her made me brave. Her arm resting resolutely around mine gave me a strange comfort as I ran into the water, willing her to feel happy, free, much like the calm surf of Pescadero Beach. 

Being Jahan's mama has made me brave enough to look my fears in the eye. I know she will be walking along the waves with me very soon.    

Photo by Rebecca McCue