From the beach house we rented for more than 30 years, we could see the changing tides. From the screened porch and long kitchen table where we ate dinner, we could also see the sun’s nightly decline and its disappearance at the horizon. So since I can remember, my family has rushed outside to watch just as the sky turns red and the sun dips under the sea. When I was a kid, we sat in near silence, three girls respectful of its beauty. My father took hundreds of photographs each year that always ended up looking like a hazy yellow ball in a murky sky – always far away and unclear due to his poor mastery of the camera.
For the last five or six years my three boys have turned this nightly vacation tradition into a joyous celebration filled with cheers and “Goodnight Sun!” and “See you in the morning!” and “Have fun in China!” They clap. They count down loudly to the end when the last sliver of sun tucks itself into bed. Their voices travel down the beach from where they jump up and down on plastic lawn chairs. And our more mature neighbors down the dirt road laugh and reminisce about their many trips to the beach when their own children were young like my boys.
This year a miscommunication or twist of fate ended our time in that house. Although we still rented on that same perfect beach, we were in a different house – one slightly back from the cliff overlook and surrounded by New England greenery that hides much of the sky and sea. And we kept missing the sunset. The sun had to make its journey to China without the farewell parade of boys. No “Goodnight sun!” No “See you in the morning!” No clapping wildly as the sky exploded in vibrant color just before going dark.
A moment in our family story has passed unnoticed by the boys. They are unaware that a small piece of their childhood is already gone. Only I mourn its passing.