The tall, slender woman, strands of red hair escaping from the loose bun at the nape of her neck, pushed herself on bare feet through the sugar-like sand above the tide line. When she reached the packed layer bordering the waves, her walking became steadier. She smiled and bent down to roll up Billy’s blue knickers before they could get wet in a wave sneaking up on him. The hem of her own long linen skirt was quickly wet, but she didn’t care.
The tousled four year old, with hair a lighter version of his mother’s, looked up and asked, “Are we searching for treasures today?”
“Of course, my love. Maybe we’ll even find a sand dollar.” She looked up along the strand of beach as she said that, shading her eyes from the late afternoon sun. The beach was empty, except for the golden retriever that had followed her down from the house. She patted the dog absentmindedly, warning her, “Don’t you get wet and shake on us, Daisy!”
Daisy licked Billy’s face, producing a hail of giggles, before plodding ahead of them in the wet sand. The woman took Billy’s hand and they began their walk, kicking the soft rivulets of water that ticked their feet, splashing Daisy for a change. As they walked, she pointed out pretty bits of shell and the holes where the crabs lived. The holes near them bubbled as the water pulled away, back to the sea with a rustle of pebbles, only to return in another foaming wave.
“Look, Billy, there’s a crab!” She pointed to a crab further up the sand, which had just emerged and was sidling to another hole, watching them carefully. Billy pulled his hand away and ran after the crab, which quickly ducked into the closest hole. He returned, a pout on his face.
“Why do they always run away? I just want to look at them.”
“I think you’re so big that they’re scared. Just like big people you don’t know scare you,” his mother answered.
“What if I crawled up to them?”
“A good idea, but you’d be too slow. I think they’d be able to run away.”
A smidgen of white emerging from the water distracted Billy from the conversation, and he ran forward to find out what it was. He pulled the object from beneath its gritty cover and yelled, “Look, Mommy, a sand dollar!” It was indeed a sand dollar, but only a half, broken in the tide.
“Good find, Billy,” his mother replied. “We’ll save it.”
“Here, put it in your pocket for me,” Billy demanded, handing it to her and running further ahead in the shallow water.
At that moment, she heard a familiar voice calling her. “Ellen, where are you going? Your sister brought supper for us, and it’s nearly time to eat!” She turned and saw her husband a few yards away, almost blending into the gold of the sand in his rumpled summer suit.
“Okay, I’m coming, I just have to get Billy.” She turned back to locate him, but he was gone. Then she remembered.
“Ellen, it’s time to go home.” This time with a little impatience.
She reluctantly started back towards her husband, whispering over her shoulder, “Tomorrow, Billy. We’ll take a walk again tomorrow.” When she reached her husband, she took his hand and let him lead her up the beach towards the house. Daisy followed, tail wagging.
“Did you have fun with Billy today?” he asked.
“Yes, I did,” she replied. Look what we found.” And she pulled the half sand dollar from her pocket.