The stranger only spoke one sentence. It was all he needed to say. The perfect string of sixteen words completely transformed the moment.
The small board was secured to my wrist and I held the rope for additional protection. Her tiny hands held on tight after my instructions and a few times of falling in the surf. She skimmed across the water effortlessly as I ran and pulled her across the two or so inches of tide beneath her. And she squealed in delight as each wave approached and laughed a nervous laughter when we crashed into it, a laughter that also sounded relieved every time she managed to stay afloat. As the water returned to the ocean I’d spin her around so she could see the next wave begin to chase us. Back and forth I ran, pulling her behind me. Sometimes running backward just so I could watch her face. Everyone else on the beach faded away. It was just her and I enjoying the few remaining hours of daylight from the quickly setting sun.
That’s why I didn’t even see him coming, which made his comment all the more surreal to me. Almost like an angel who appears for a short time and then vanishes, this man, with leathery dark skin, dressed in a jet black wetsuit, seemed to have come out of nowhere. But now I found him approaching me and I could tell he had something to say.
The woman next to him was also tanned, but her skin was not weathered like his. In the time it took me to hear his words I was able to process that this was his daughter walking along the beach with him. She wore a wetsuit as well, and carried with her a set of flippers in her left hand. That’s when his words registered with me.
“Turn back the clock twenty-five years and that’s exactly what I was doing with her.” His finger pointed down at my daughter.
With a nod and a look shared between he and his grown up daughter they were already passed and walking away with their backs toward me before I could respond. It left me with an amazing feeling.
Something that struck me too was the look in his daughter’s eyes. It was the look of a fond memory. Like she still felt like daddy’s little girl being pulled along in the ocean’s playground. Her eyes smiled reminiscently at my daughter, whose own eyes gleamed unaware of the moment I was having while she sat patiently on the board.