My Summer Stories: A Walk on the Beach
Growing up my parents graced me with tons of amazing summer activities, from horseback riding camp to white water rafting, I did it all. I am so appreciative for all of my great summer memories, but nothing could ever top this summer. It's funny too because in comparison to my many grand summer adventures, the things I'm grateful for now are your common every day events, but oh how they've quickly become life altering adventures that will forever be imprinted in my heart.
On June 26, 2012 my twenty-two month old daughter, Ellie, received her first pair of leg braces. We called them her "new legs." We were determined that with the continued support of weekly physical therapy, the assistance of her leg braces, and daily practice, Ellie would one day learn to walk. Along with her "new legs," we also tried out a walker to allow Ellie the freedom that she so desperately wanted.
With all of these wonderful new tools in place, my goal for the summer immediately became clear. During our annual beach trip in July, I wanted Ellie to be able to walk on the beach. I knew this goal would be a tough challenge, but I was confident that with a lot of hard work, Ellie would accomplish this. So the morning after receiving her braces, our new daily routine began. We headed to the mall to walk with all of the early morning walkers. While unloading the walker, I was so nervous and had tons of thoughts racing through my head. What if Ellie hated it? What if she pitched a fit and refused to try? No, Ellie was going to do this. She will walk and the only way for her to learn is by doing things just like this. I've got to be positive and motivating. She's so intuitive. If she knows I'm nervous, we don't have a chance. At that very moment, I swallowed my nerves, put Ellie on my hip, the walker on my shoulder and said as many prayers as I could before opening the door.
Just inside the entrance, I put the walker down and gently sat Ellie down inside it. "Ok, baby, let's go walk." I gently stretched out my hands to pull Ellie to a standing position and before I could let go of her hands, she took off. She could see the carousel in front of her and was immediately drawn to it. Since this was her first real stint at walking "independently," I was floored when she made it all the way down the long hallway, squealing and laughing with each step. As soon as she got to the end of the hallway, she flopped down to sit and gave me a huge grin. I'll never forget how proud I was of her at that very moment, but more importantly, I will never forget that smile. For the first time ever, she had done it, and she hasn't looked back since.
Over the course of the next month, we kept our morning routine of walking at the mall. Ellie became quite familiar with many of the wonderful people who would stop and say, "Hi," or who would offer kind words of encouragement. To keep Ellie motivated, we found several things at the mall that she loved to do. Ellie loved riding "Hanks Hot Dog Truck," the carousel, and the occasional ice cream cone. We got her a special ladybug change purse to hold her money and tickets for the special treats. We even ventured out to other places like Costco, the grocery store, Target, and Lowe's, just to name a few. Any chance we could get her walking we did. We were as determined as ever to meet our goal!
The weeks passed and before we knew it, we were headed to North Myrtle Beach. We got there late on a Friday night and put Ellie straight to bed. I could hardly sleep with anticipation of Ellie getting to take those first steps on the beach. The next day seemed to drag on, and even shopping couldn't keep my mind off of the evening's events. We ate an early supper and headed up to the closest public beach access points. As we pulled into the parking lot the wind picked up significantly, a misty rain began, and the clouds came rolling in making things very overcast and gray. My husband, Crosby, looked at me and said, "Do you think it's too windy? Looks like we might get wet." I didn't have to say a word, I just remember looking at him and him saying, "I'll get the walker out of the back. A little rain never hurt anybody, right?" I jumped out and went to go and get Ellie out, but before I opened the door I suddenly felt like we were back at the mall for that very first walk. Just as it had done before, my heart was racing with excitement and fear. I was praying as hard for the weather to hold out as I was for this to be a good experience. Just as I had done before, I tried to be positive and calm. With Ellie on my hip and the walker on Crosby's shoulder, we approached the beach, hand in hand, ready for Ellie's biggest adventure yet. We made it over the dunes and started approaching the shore.
Feeling her grip tighten on my shirt, I could tell that Ellie was nervous and a little overwhelmed by all of the new sights, sounds and smells. I also knew it was my job to calm her nerves and help her gain the confidence she would need for what was coming. Crosby and I made eye contact and I nodded. As he put her walker down in the sand, we shared a nervous grin. I pulled Ellie in close and pointed to her walker, "We're going to walk on the beach, in the sand." I smiled and hugged her tight, sitting her in her walker. Just like that first walk I leaned down and offered her my hands to stand. But this time, Ellie didn't reach out to grab my hands. She sat in her seat for a minute and looked around. Just as I started feeling a little anxious myself, Ellie looked up at me and I saw that familiar grin. She stood up on her own and began marching along the beach. I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only was she walking by herself, she was doing it in some pretty rough terrain without a moment's hesitation, like an old pro.
At that moment, the misty rain stopped, the clouds parted and made way for the sun to reappear. She had done it again. As I sat snapping pictures I remember being overwhelmed with the oddest feeling. Yes, I was happy, but it wasn't just because of seeing Ellie reach her goal and seeing how happy and independent she was. I was mostly happy and truly grateful for the journey we had shared in getting there.