Serendipity

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Serendipity.
That is the only word which can possibly describe what happened on the sweet, sandy shores of the Gulf where we occupied the exact time and space in this vast Universe as did an all-girl acapella choir from Tulane University!
Bill and I were late unpacking our “beach stuff,” grabbing an ice cold drink, our folding chairs, and heading for the shore in order to see the glorious sunset Mother Nature often arranges for us on our visits to Gulf Shore, Alabama (The Little Town with the Big Beach). The beach was almost deserted, and only the fluffy bank of clouds still held the last red and purple dye from the sun now hidden below the horizon. There were a few couples and fewer families packing up, heading back to their rented rooms for showers and a late supper.
Just at water’s edge there was a laughing gaggle of school girls, their long tanned legs dancing in the surf. A haunting tune floated from their circle on the breeze and over to us; we applauded loudly when they finished, hoping they could hear our appreciation over the evening wind. I turned to Bill and said, “Oh, I wish they would come closer so we could hear better.” No sooner had I spoken than the dozen or so beauties came and made a semi-circle around us.
“May we sing for you?” the dark-haired leader asked while the others smiled like children asking for ice-cream money. “Oh, Please!” we chorused, and this beautiful band of angels whistled and hummed softly, then began to sway and sing.
My heart soared! I had to press my hand against my chest to keep it from flying away with the little flock of seagulls that made a perfect “V” as they sailed across the evening sky. Magnificent. A private concert. For our ears only.
We learned that the young women from Tulane were visiting Gulf Shores for one day only, and were just heading back—a three hour drive. Who except our amazingly generous God could have arranged this “coincidence?” I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.
The blessings of this seaside vacation continued. Perfect weather. A cozy little Tiki Hut efficiency apartment. The best Shrimp and Grits on the coast at Coastal Restaurant’s Sunday Brunch, no lines, and pleasant neighbors from Tennessee.
Lisa, Dewey, and grandson Tucker could have been from a foreign country for all the differences there were in our lives. Dewey worked in a paper mill for 33 years, bought acreage for hunting, deer blinds and dove fields, drove a new model black Cadillac, would have given us the shirt off his back 15 minutes after meeting us, and was as happy as we that Judge Kavanaugh had been appointed to the Supreme Court.
Lisa laughed as she explained her job, “You’re not gonna believe what I do,” she giggled. She works for the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms division of the State Government, shadowing underage “tobacco buyers,” plants who make sure businesses are not selling to minors. Now she had some stories!
This morning the ocean was roaring, tossing great grey and white foam toppers up onto the shore. Hurricane Michael was raising his ugly head in the Gulf and the weather man was uncertain if landfall would occur here on the Alabama coast or turn east toward the Florida panhandle. We were rooting for the panhandle and praying at the same time that it would only be a tropical storm causing no damage.
Who knew the schools in Alabama were on holiday this week or that the sandy shores would be chock-a-bloc with families enjoying one last gasp of late, late summer? The day was, however, glorious — overcast, 80 degrees, with just a tiny bit of sand blowing against the back of my legs stretched out, toes buried in the cool damp sand. Close to Heaven.
One precious toddler was wildly in love with the sea and the sun and the sand. She escaped her mom’s grasp and ran headlong for one of the greatest mysteries of our universe. Her adventure ended in a wail when her feet hit the foaming surf and she plopped rudely down upon her little bottom. Where’s momma now? She was scooped up and within a breath was reaching both arms out toward the sea, straining against her mother’s grip. The draw is just so strong. We all feel it. We are like lemmings.
Regardless of the Red Flags snapping in the brisk wind, there were dozens of youngsters skim boarding, or throwing themselves headlong into the waves. I was working overtime as a virtual Life Guard, attempting to keep tabs on the three or four preschoolers whose parents were busy texting friends “wish you were here,” the same message I had sent when we arrived. But these people needed to be watching their kids!! I could not police the world! Bill told me to just stop looking. How do you do that when a tiny bedraggled boy is becoming less and less able to pull himself away from the undertow? Oh dear, I am reminded of my own near-death drowning.
Vero Beach: 2010. The children seemed to be having a great time Body Surfing. Vero’s “beach” was only about three yards of hard wet sand as I jogged onto the waves. Within minutes I was knocked to my hands and knees and the vicious undertow began dragging me further and further away from where Bill sat enjoying the late afternoon sun on a comfortable lawn chair.
Coughing, eyes blinded by the salt water, I raised one shaky arm between tumbles, hoping Bill would rush to pull me to safety. He waved in response each time I lifted my weakening arm. Two young women, strolling along the now deserted beach, recognized the imminent danger of one lone, struggling, old woman who should have had better sense ( “but I’ve always been such a strong swimmer”) and racing into the smashing waves, they pulled me to the shell-strewn shore. My hands and knees were bleeding, scraped raw. Finally, Bill, cocking his head in our direction, pulled himself up and out of his chair and ambled down the beach to reclaim his tattered and torn bride.
Someone has to be the Life Guard!!

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