It’s the first time his son has been on the beach so he takes him by the hand and guides him towards the water’s edge. The sun has almost fallen behind the horizon, leaving a sliver of light that warms their faces and highlights the ripples on the surface. As they reach the water the cool sand underfoot dissolves into gently lapping waves that make his son step backwards and look up for reassurance.
‘It’s ok, it’s like bath time.’ He releases his son’s hand so that he can discover the water for himself and watches a small palm slap the surface, sending droplets into the air. There are home movies of himself doing the same thing thirty years ago.
Along the beach where a dog is bouncing around a mother paddling with her children, is the spot where his grandparents first met.
They spent endless summers here, first as a couple, then as husband and wife and later as parents. They bought their family with them whenever they visited and when their children became adults they came back too. His aunt and uncle have crossed the world to watch this sun setting and his parents had vowed to marry as the same light faded from view.
His grandparents’ life together had started on this beach and, without that single moment, none of them would be here now. All the memories they’d made and all those they were yet to make were all for them. They were here on their behalf. This is their beach.
Squatting down, he rests a hand on the back of his son’s head and brushes the blonde hair with his fingers. His son looks up and holds out five shiny fingers, wet from prodding pebbles below the surface.
‘You’ll be old enough to skim those yourself soon. Ask your Uncle Alfie to show you. He’s a champion skimmer,’ he says.
The bounding dog catches his son’s attention and he makes a ‘wuhh’ noise and totters off towards it. He follows close enough behind to be there when he’s needed while giving his son the space to explore.
As they reach their family dog, he scoops up his son and joins his wife and older children playing in the sea where his grandparents first met.