Take me to the water

Gray Hughes

We all have one of those things that brings us back to being a kid again.

For me, nothing makes me feel young again like water.

Growing up, I was pretty much always surrounded by water. The first house that my mom and I moved into in Maryland was on a bay. As someone who was used to the concrete jungle of Philadelphia, being able to walk out of my house and see water was something I was not used to. We had a dock, too.

I was used to seeing the water and the ocean when I was a kid even before moving to Maryland. We would often go to Ocean City, Md.. or “Down the Shore” to the Jersey Shore. I’ve always felt comfortable around water.

But being right on the water was special.

Of course, we didn’t spend forever in that house. We moved into a new house, and, sadly, we weren’t on the water anymore. But growing up where I did, water was always close by.

I grew up about 15 minutes away from the ocean. Many a summer day was spent lying in the sand, jumping over the waves in the ocean and trying my best to ride those waves using a boogie board or even trying to surf (the one time I tried to surf I stood up and promptly fell and cracked my head on the board. That hurt and ended my brief career as a surfer).

My family had a sailboat, too. We would take her out into the Chesapeake Bay and spend many weekends and even a week or two in the summer on her. Some of my fondest memories of a child were of sailing (except for when my family decided to sail when the Eagles were playing and I couldn’t watch the game).

We sold the boat, but luckily for me that came at a time when my friends were getting old enough to take their parents’ boats out. Once again, I spent many a summer day attempting to water ski or watching my friends wakeboard or even getting pummeled on a tube. I think between the ages of 15 and 22 there wasn’t a summer weekend when I wasn’t out on a friend’s boat (unless I had to work).

Perhaps some of my fondest memories of my senior year of high school came by the water. On Assateague Island, a barrier island near where I grew up, you could drive your truck out onto the beach in designated places. I was never able to do that because I had a Volvo, but a lot of my friends had trucks who could do that.

Many a spring and summer day, evening and night in 2012 was spent sitting on a tailgate by the ocean, just watching the waves crash and enjoying each other’s company. I felt true peace, just being by the water and my friends.

Sadly, though, those days were limited. Had I realized it at the time I might have savored them more. Upon graduating from college, I was able to go back to where I grew up by the water, but my weekly trips to the beach (or bay or river or whatever) were limited. Sure, there were some summer days when I made the trip to the beach, but those days were few and far between. Being an adult took priority over something I enjoyed as a teenager.

Nevertheless, one of the hardest parts about leaving Maryland for here was leaving the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. I had to wave goodbye to childhood memories, and that was a lot for me to handle. I never thought I’d leave the water. Or if I did I always assumed it would be to a place where the ocean is less than two hours away.

That’s something that is part of growing up. We have to leave childhood memories and dreams behind. It’s a terrible feeling when you have to do that, but it’s comforting at least to have those memories.

Well, upon moving here, I didn’t realize how much time I’d spend by the water again — albeit in a different sense.

Since moving here, I’ve kayaked, paddleboarded and even jumped off the rocks at Dakota Point. It’s not what I was used to, but it’s satisfying nonetheless.

And I know those childhood memories will always be with me. I was at Sheridan Lake the other day taking a weather photo when I was hit by a smell that took me back: gasoline, water, bait.

And all of a sudden I was 18 again on my friend’s boat, not a care in the world, my whole future ahead of me. That, to me, is pretty special.


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