“Sandy Toes” Fiction. Based on a True Change of Heart.

“Sandy Toes”

Fiction. Based on a True Change of Heart.

Inspired by Jane

by Starry Teller


This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character, or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255.


Growing up, the beach seemed distasteful to me. My mom would go stir crazy sitting at home every summer, so she would pack up our tacky tourist beach chairs and load up the car as if we were moving out. We only lived an hour away from the ocean, but going to the beach always became an exhausting event. My mom hated sand—and I did too for that matter. I hated when it got in my hair and wet bathing suit. But my mom’s hatred for sand was another matter. She would freak out if even a grain of sand was “brought back home” with us in the car via our towels or chairs or bathing suits. How were we supposed to exist at the beach and not get a grain of sand on us? My mom would make us shake the sand out of everything, then wrap everything in clean towels. We would change out of our suits before we got back into the car. However, the fun didn’t stop there because when we got home, we had to hose everything off outside and had to rinse ourselves off in the swimming pool before being able to walk upstairs to the shower. I remember thinking to myself as a child: if we have the choice to be bored at home or do this, I would rather skip the whole ordeal and just stay home. I hardly ever went in the water at the beach, anyways. It was usually cold and sandy and once, I almost drowned in a riptide. Whenever we went to the beach, I would sit under our blue and purple umbrella and read a book. That was the only good thing about going to the beach—being alone under the umbrella, wrapped in a towel, in my own world.

When we were young, my sister and I spent the night at our grandparent’s house often. Sometimes our grandparents would take us to the beach in the mornings. My grandma loved the beach. She always said it was a sort of home. She hoped after she finished going back to school for her Master’s in Education and working a bit more as a teacher, she and my grandpa would retire in a house by the ocean. She loved lying on a towel, immersing her feet in the sand. She always wore black sunglasses and pulled her short blonde hair into a ponytail. She didn’t care if my sister and I got sand in her car or made a mess of ourselves. She collected shells—they were her special treasures. She had a treasure box for us too, at her house. Our treasures were different from hers: play jewelry, stamps, Barbie dolls. We learned to love grandma’s shell treasures as much as ours though, and she taught us to find our own. I didn’t need to bring a book to the beach when we went with grandma. We would walk down to the edge of the water at low tide and dig our fingers into the wet sand, searching for abalone shells or sand dollars.

Before my grandma passed away from liver cancer two years ago, she told us she wanted her ashes scattered in the ocean. She always felt at home when she was at the beach, and wanted it to be her final resting place. Recently, I have come to find myself at home by the ocean as well. I go there not just to be close to her, but to feel what she would feel if she were still here. I find myself along the shore, inhaling the salty sound of breaking waves, tasting the rich blue. What I like best about being near the ocean is that its sound overpowers all other minor sounds. I can stand atop the cliff at Moonlight or knee-deep in the water at Carlsbad and the effect is the same: the overpowering peace of everything and nothing clashes together in the break of those waves. It is easy to unclench my tightened fists and unburden my knotted shoulders when I am near the water. The ocean takes my tangible anxiety and pain and exchanges it for a moment in time I thought I lost forever. I feel the color of my grandma’s laugh as she runs along the shoreline, chasing my sister and me. I hear the taste of key lime yogurt being slurped from a spoon and watch twin dimples poke out from under an over-sized hat. I know the sand beneath and between my toes. And I know the hand that holds mine as I jump the white-capped waves.

Leave a Reply

Write a comment