Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The beach

It was my daughter who noticed the beach sand
in this wedding photo.  

The beach runs in my family's blood.  My mother was born in a mansion fronting the sea.  My parents got married not too far away from one, in Telok Kurau.  I grew up on the East Coast. Until his early eighties, my father swam in the sea with his friends every morning.

In New York. I confront the daily dilemma of whether we should move uptown to be closer to the kids' schools.  Do I trade my river view for one of Central Park or Park Avenue?  One quick gaze at the boats moving upriver and the seaplanes gliding on the water runway, and my mind is quickly made up. I need to be near water. It calms my soul.

There is therapy from the languid lull of the sea.  The lapping waves.  The soft dips into the sand.  Or perhaps, the adrenaline rush of the cold, gushing ocean waves. And on a good beach, the unique shells that sweep up to shore and the bashful crabs that burrow deep in seconds.

I enjoyed reading the last chapter of "Sambal Days" by Aziza Ali in which she lavishly described the picnics and weekends spent by the beach with her family.  Aziza and I were co-panelists at the Singapore Writers' Festival last year.  Her reminiscences could very well have captured my sisters' enjoyment of their beach days, same era, same place.  For my sisters, their playground was Loyang before the stretch was creamed into the Changi Airport runway.

Singapore had to sacrifice many things in order to prosper, among them, the natural beaches that lined the East Coast.  Recently, my kids showed my father a magazine photo of coconut trees lining a white sand beach in Thailand.  He told the one thing that they will remember for life.  "Our beach looked like that."

These days, we venture far and wide in the hunt for what was once taken for granted in the past.

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