My great-grandfather — Great Daddy to me — was the owner of the general store in Louisville, Alabama, and spent his weekends at the fishing cabin he built with his brother a couple hours east in Grayton Beach, Florida. That area’s called the ‘Redneck Riviera’ now, but in spite of (or maybe because of) the unfavorable nickname, this quiet little beach town made for the perfect family refuge. This is where Great Daddy taught his daughter — my grandmother — how to swim, water ski, and catch blue crabs. This is where my grandmother relaxed with her own children. This is where my parents fell in love; it’s where my husband and I recently got married.
That’s me on the beach with Great Daddy, though I surely don’t have an actual memory of the day. Still, I’ve looked at the photo so many times that I’ve recreated it in my mind:
That summer, the shoreline was so flat you could walk out for yards without having to swim. I’d just learned to run, and was chasing the beach ball towards the water. Smitten by my excitement, Great Daddy followed me into the water, still wearing his dress shoes and slacks.
Being open to an unexpected moment of joy — whether you’re dressed for it or not — is a lesson I’ve held always close. It’s something I try to remember in my daily life, even now, 3,000 miles from Great Daddy’s beach.