Whenever I walk along the beach I’m reminded of the times I spent walking with my mom when I was a girl. We would walk along the warm beaches of Costa Rica, the tropical sun toasting our skin, the salty breeze tangling through our hair. Sometimes I would hold her hand, or run ahead to collect seashells shaped like quarter moons, the perfect pendants for my homemade necklaces.
“Walking on the sand is the best exercise for your legs,” she would tell me, advice I remember now each and every time.
When I was a little girl my mom held the vitality of a woman in her twenties. Bright green eyes, her frame tall, thin and strong. Smooth light brown hair and a sweet feminine smile. Beautiful, like a mermaid who escaped from the pages of a Greek fairytale.
On our many family vacations at the beach, she would say: “I’ll be back, I’m going to collect conch from the ocean!” And she would go off with her friends on a boat with no motor, diving deep to grab them from the sea floor with the strength of her own two lungs, there in the deep waters of Costa Rica’s Pacific, between Playa Sámara and Isla Chira. In a few hours, she would come back to us with a sack full of those giant shells and their delicious, sought-after flesh, as if they were trophies she plucked from the sea.
In my younger years, though I was still super shy, I observed and internalized the many attributes I admired in my mother, which in the future would become part of my personality.
I remember being seated in a chair, timid, in the corner of the room at a party, sheltering myself from the boisterous Latin festivities. My gaze settled toward the center of the dance floor, where I carefully scrutinized each of the people moving to the music. My eyes caught a glimpse of my mother, who danced with such grace, rhythm and joy that she looked like a sun shining so brightly that she darkened everything else around her.
My mom dances more beautifully than anyone, I whispered to myself, wishing with all my might that I would one day learn to dance like her.
Mami always pushed me to compete with the men in the palm tree climbing contests at the beach. And I knew I could swim in the ocean without a care in the world, because if a current carried me off, she could rescue me all by herself (which actually happened one day, in fact!).
She bestowed upon me the strength and confidence to believe in myself. To believe that anything is possible.
On the nights when I couldn’t fall sleep, she would tell me to close my eyes and imagine that I was light as a feather floating through outer space. She told me to visit all the planets, and I would see myself flying among the shooting stars and meteors, until I fell soundly asleep, every single time.
In these simple moments, my mother gifted me the creative imagination, sweet tenderness and sense of calm that little girls need to feel safe and secure.
When I would bring my homework back from school with complicated math problems, the first thing she would say was always, “This is so easy!” And she would sit with me to explain the logic behind how to solve them correctly.
With patience, she taught me that no matter how complicated a problem seems, there is always a simple solution.
Nowadays, I walk along the beach near my house, perhaps because my mom made me see that living near the sea is the most beautiful thing there is.
I feel the soft sand sinking beneath my feet while I watch crystal-blue waves break onto the shore, covering my toes with their weightless white foam. The sun illuminates the beachscape, seashells shine iridescent. The breeze blows through my hair and I breathe the salty air as it enters my body and cleanses me from the inside-out.
From somewhere, I hear a few familiar words reciting themselves sweetly in my mind, and I smile to myself, remembering my days as a girl, my mother’s lessons now my daily practice: “Walking on the sand is the best exercise…”
Written in spanish by Michelle Rodriguez and beautifully translated into english by Tara Ruttenberg.