Cala Mondrego Beach wasn’t the beach I had been picturing in my mind on the journey in the taxi. It was considerably smaller than I imagined and wanted, but the view out into the sea was rather breath-taking. Situated in a cove, the small beach invited both holiday makers and exotic yachts to anchor down and appreciate their rather beautiful surroundings.
Only I didn’t do that – not straightaway anyway.
It took a simple act of unadulterated love to pull me out of whatever self absorbed hole I was in danger of being sucked into to make me look up and see the world as it should be seen: right here, right now and most certainly unfiltered.
When we arrived the beach, it was already filling up with couples and families both local and from father a field and an array of languages could be heard floating along in the warm breeze. We made a beeline for a couple of sun-beds only for us to be told that they were already taken. Eventually, we found two that were residing in the shade. We paid our 15 Euros and they were ours for the day. And when I say ‘ours’ I specifically mean my daughter and son because they immediately chose a bed each leaving both my husband and me laying out our towels in the sand. Within minutes, no, actually it was seconds, my daughter wanted her tablet and she cried (actual tears) when I informed her that she would only be able to watch the programmes we had pre-planned and downloaded for her. Yes! We preconceived that something like this would occur and downloaded a number of her favourite programmes. How awful of us!
“There’s no WiFi at the beach,” I informed her.
“No WiFi! But that’s impossible,” she wailed.
Wrapping herself up in a towel, she plugged her headphones in, laid back on the bed and ignored my plea for her to allow me to lather her in Nivea factor 50. My son, on the other hand, had already grown tired of the bed and was now lying in the sand and scooping it up onto the bed. He, bless him, had unknowingly placed himself a little too close to the childless couple on the beds next to us. Seasoned sunbathers, the couple had already moved their beds towards the burning ball of fire in the sky and had the factor two oil lathered on. The Earth must have tilted slightly in its orbit as the lady jumped up from where she lay and moved her bed onto my boy innocently playing in the sand. With her territory clearly marked out, she resumed her place back on her bed without even acknowledging the fact that she had placed her bed millimetres away from being directly on top of a three year old boy.
“Arseholes!” my husband shouted as he picked up his sand laden towel and shook it vigorously in their direction.
Our next task was one we had come to dread: applying sun-cream to children who don’t understand the importance of rigorous sun-cream application. By this time we were quite seasoned at this job and while one of us caused a simple diversion (usually using sweets), the other approached the first child from behind, jumped, grabbed any flailing limbs and lathered and lathered until they resembled a melting white Magnum ice-cream. We would then simply repeat this action with the second child and there you have it – two children ready to stay safe in the sun.
It was finally time to lay down and have a rest, but not before I hounded the husband to take a picture of me in my bikini as I was feeling surprisingly confident having spent the best part of two weeks running before the holiday in a last minute attempt to tone the ‘mumbod’.
“You’re so vain!” he laughed at me before grabbing his mini Magnum ice-creams by the hand and running off towards the ocean thus leaving me to try to take a selfie in the sun which proved impossible with the glare of the sun on my screen and factor 50 dripping from my fingers. How would all the people on my social media accounts know that I was having a wonderful time on holiday if I didn’t post regularly?
Having given up on the selfie, I had just finished applying my sun cream – factor 30 on my burnt bits and 15 on my legs – when I heard the familiar war cry of my children. They were salty and sandy as they launched their little bodies into my arms where they demanded snacks and pop. One visit to the beach shop later and they were munching on the famous Spanish dish we know as Salt and Vinegar Pringles and supping down orange Fanta. My job as this was all happening was batting away the wasps that were intent on getting their fill of the Fanta. As the wasps descended, I may or may not have been screaming and running around the beds much to the annoyance of the childless couple who were wasp-free and sunbathing on sand that was definitely on our territory. (Perhaps I should have scooched on down and had a wee around our beds.)
Since arriving at the beach, I had not spent one minute of my time at the beach laid down so I decided to go in the sea. I’m not a huge fan of the ocean if I am being honest. I like to admire it from afar; preferably from a sun-bed with my Kindle in one hand and a lager in the other but those delicacies were now ancient relics from other holidays past when we were the childless couple lapping up the sun’s rays and staring down the couples who had had the audacity to procreate. The sea at Calamondrego Beach however, was really nothing short of wonderful. The cold didn’t bite at your toes as you entered and the waves didn’t threaten to knock you down. Amiable water lapped up over my toes and the waves were lulling me. They forced me to stop and take a minute. I breathed in and out and in and out as I felt the warmth of the sun hitting my back. I noticed with clarity that my children had left the confinement of their towels and beds and had rushed to be in the ocean with me; their father followed close behind.
Then something in my periphery vision makes me turn around slightly and that’s the moment when I begin to appreciate where I am.
A mother is carrying her child across the beach and they are heading towards the sea. He is laid across her and she is carrying him like he’s a baby, holding him under his legs and supporting his body. Only this child is not a baby – far from it. I guess his age at about eleven or twelve and yet she carries him without burden as though he is as light as a feather. There is a vacant look in his eyes and yet a smile is etched across his face because he knows where he is going. I become acutely aware of the fact that I am staring but I can not tear my eyes away from this woman carrying her disabled child into the ocean. Everything I have complained about in the last few hours hangs around me like the albatross on the ancient mariner and I am a little ashamed of myself for not being there in the present unlike the mother who’s now passing me and entering the ocean. She isn’t deterred by the initial coldness of the sea splashing up against her legs and she continues without hesitation as the water rises up against the boy in her arms. Delicately and with one arm she scoops up water to gently wet his hair and as she does this, his smile grows. I sit in the sand and allow the sea to wrap its arms around me just as this mother is wrapping her arms around her boy and I continue to watch. I can hear my own children shrieking and laughing as their father swims with them in the sea. My admiration for her is great and I see a strength in her that I just don’t see in myself at that moment. Here I am sulking over the fact that I haven’t been able to lie down and top up my tan and filter the hell out of ‘a perfect family moment’ to share online and yet here is this woman whose sole intention is to give her son the best day at the beach. I realise that my eyes are filling with salty tears and they fall down my cheeks and into the water; they join the ocean where they will stay forever. Unintentionally, this mother has given me a small wisdom that I hope to live my life by.
This mother is in the now; she’s living in the moment, as his her son and they are loving every second of it.
I turn my attention back to my own children laughing, playing and splashing in the sea and I stride towards them scooping my son up in my arms as I reach him. My phone is discarded somewhere, the iPad is turned off and my Kindle is sitting unread on the sun-bed.
I’m in the now and it’s right where I should be.