|A Love Affair
Let me tell you a story about my love affair with the stretch of sand between Melbourne
and Vero Beaches in Florida.
When I was a girl, my family spent weeks of every summer at Sea Dunes Motel on the
east coast of Florida. It was a sort of bare-bones affair, built in a double U shape
around an olympic swimming pool. A functional wooden stairway led down to the
beach. There was a restaurant on the premises. Since it was the only place to eat for
miles in either direction, it was pretty popular with the locals as well as with guests.
The Sea Dunes was nothing fancy, but to a kid who loved the water, it was heaven. I
spent my days wandering deserted beaches and swimming in the pool, and the
evenings rubbing Noxzema into my sun-fried skin. That was in the days before we
knew about skin cancer.
When I grew up and got married, I relegated the Sea Dunes to my past with other
childhood things, but the pull to return was as strong in me as in the giant sea turtles
who return every year to Melbourne Beach to lay their eggs in the sand dunes. What
stopped me from going back was fear that this image in my mind was only that—an
image. One day, I decided to chance it. I packed up my bathing suit, and my long-time
friend Dee Gardner and I headed south. We arrived on the heels of a hurricane—not
one of the bad ones, thank heavens—to find the Sea Dunes largely unchanged. It was
October and chilly, but the magic was still there. The beaches were deserted except for
fiddler crabs and terns that raced before our feet. The sun sparkled on the water, gulls
cried overhead, and I realized it was still heaven to me.
The third year we returned, we were told that the Sea Dunes had been sold to a land
developer and would be demolished, to be replaced with single family homes. My
heart was broken. For me, it was truly the end of an era.
I stayed away for years, unable to face the change. Finally, I could stand it no longer,
and I packed the car and headed south. I steeled myself as I set off down the coast. I
had feared seeing the place in ruins: walls half-crumbled, rubble strewn in all
directions, but I had underestimated the speed of the local builders. The new houses
were finished; every trace of the Sea Dunes had been erased. It hurt, but surprisingly,
it was bearable. I continued on down to Sebastian Inlet, another love from my
childhood. The state had taken control of the area when they put the bridge over the
inlet and had built a long pier out over the jetty where I scampered barefoot as a girl.
Even the pier didn't spoil it for me.
As I headed back to the hotel, I realized that the magic I felt when I was in the area was
unchanged. I had thought my love was for The Sea Dunes, and it was, in part; but,
although The Sea Dunes was gone, the love remained. It had changed. It had grown.
That was okay. Isn’t that what love is supposed to do?
I hope you have a love like mine. If you don’t, I’m willing to share.