Family · Triumphs

The Smell of the Ocean

It’s a rare find to have someone in your life to whom you can tell random stories.  The below is an email I sent to one such person.  I have always held these sorts of things close to me because I didn’t think anyone could understand my words in the same way that I did.  I didn’t think anyone would appreciate them or that it would touch them in the way they touched me.  It turns out that none of that matters.  Simply because one doesn’t hear your words the same way you hear them in your own mind, doesn’t mean your words are worth any less.  It’s taken me a long time to understand how important my voice is, if only to myself.  It’s made me a lot less afraid of being vulnerable in an honest way.  I am not afraid to speak my truths anymore.

Dear Itsy Bitsy Spider,

This is too long to text so I am going to just email it to you and you can do whatever you want with it.  SO!  I was listening to the Have a Great Day playlist on Spotify and for whatever reason today they had a bunch of Golden Oldies on it.  It made me think of growing up.

When I was younger and we lived in Huntington Beach, we used to stay at my grandparents’ house a lot.  As I got older I found out that it was because my grandmother demanded it, but that’s not part of this story.

They always had a radio station on called K-Earth 101.  They played it in their cars and in their house.  They had a pool and would play the music on the speakers outside while we swam.  It was then that I really developed a love for Motown which probably lends to my distaste for classic rock, (but it isn’t the reason I cringe when I hear it now).  There is nothing really wrong with classic rock, but it’s sort of like country music or I guess any other genre, either you like it or you don’t and I have always favored Motown.

Anyway, the music made me incredibly nostalgic for that part of my youth.  The sun, the water—be it pool or ocean, the scent of sunscreen.  My grandparents had an affinity for all things Hawaiian (unrelated: my grandmother loved The Rock entirely too much before she passed—and Bret Favre, oddly).  They visited at least once a year trumped only by the frequency in which they visited Las Vegas. 

My grandparents ordered these relatively large volcanic rocks, from Hawaii and had them placed decoratively around the pool.  So, along with the sun, the water and the scent of sunscreen, the music also makes me think of all of our parental figures screaming at us not to run around the pool.  One of us would inevitably slip and scrape some body part against one of the Hawaiian rocks of death.   My grandmother would not be sympathetic whenever we ended up cradling whatever bleeding body part and cried over it.  She would always say, “Pele got you again!”

I don’t know if you know who Pele is, but if not, she is the Hawaiian goddess of fire, volcanoes, violence, etc.  Her hair is often depicted as the lava flowing out of Kilauea.  My grandmother had several photos of her scattered in their home.   

We spent a lot of time around their pool, eating pineapple that would make my tongue burn and chasing Butkus, their boxer.  When my grandmother got older and a bit more senile, she started naming all her boxers Hacksaw (I think there were three total).  They were named after football players which you may have figured out.   

Their backyard had hibiscus, morning glories, my grandpa’s random tomato plants, and a giant apricot tree that the wire rats and opossums would hide in whenever the dogs caught their scent.  Every house in their neighborhood hand tall privacy fences around their backyards so at night, in their hot tub, you could sometimes catch a creature skuttering across the power lines or fence tops.  You couldn’t really see the stars from the ground there, but at least we could smell the salt of the ocean.

I remember pruney fingers tips and the lie that was waiting 30 minutes after eating before being allowed to swim again.

Anyway, sorry to ramble. 



I remember so many days and nights at my grandparents’ that if I close my eyes I can smell their 60’s era Mid-Century Modern home.  I can feel the carpet between my toes and taste my grandpa’s famous tacos.  We would always compete to see who could eat the most tacos.  My uncle always won.  I believe the record was 13.

Other nights we would sit on the living room floor around a stacking glass coffee table.  My sisters and I would eat Pizza Hut while my grandparents watched football.  Or, if it was something we weren’t supposed to watch, we faced away from the TV, only allowed to listen to Law and Order or X-Files.

I know I am one of the lucky ones.  One of the lucky ones who had a good childhood filled with people to love and be loved by.  My descent was on my own, but that’s a story for another day.

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