LTJ: Sunburns and Seashells

It was the summer of 1960 when my older sister invited me to take a vacation with her to Galveston, Texas—just the two of us. I was fifteen years old and had never seen the ocean. What could be better?

Jerlene and I packed the car on a Saturday morning and headed south. Hard to believe but it took us two days and nights to get to Galveston. After finding a motel, we hit the beach. If ever there was love at first sight, it happened the minute I saw the ocean. I spent the afternoon in the water letting the waves lift me off my feet and put me back down with a splash while feeling the sand slip from under my feet and back out to the sea.

Unlike me, Jerlene chose the sandy beach instead of the water, lying on a towel while soaking up the sun. She came for relaxation. I came for fun. Our first night out we had Chinese food, something totally foreign to me since I lived in a little farming community, far from exotic restaurants and fast foods. The next day I was introduced to pizza. I loved it! I loved everything about our trip. Even the ice machine outside our door was a novelty to me.

Then suddenly, Jerlene became disoriented while shopping at a souvenir shop. She grabbed my arm and I helped her out the door. We made it to the motel where she discovered that her afternoon at the beach had left her with a severe sunburn. She was so ill that she spent the rest of her vacation in bed.

Each day I would gently rub her parched skin with medication then pick up food at the motel restaurant to take back to the room where we ate each meal. It was hardly a dream vacation, at least not for my sister. I kept the ice bucket filled and soft drinks on hand and read magazines to her as she lay on the bed with only a sheet covering her severely burned body. Though I know she felt bad for me, I truly didn’t mind spending time at the motel. Our home didn’t have a lot of modern amenities so a hot shower, air conditioning and even a sink with running water were luxuries to me.

On our last night in Galveston, Jerlene felt well enough to walk to an ocean pier where the air was cool, salty and sounded of tinkling glass wind chimes blowing in the evening breeze. The next day we started home but the sun coming through the windshield proved too painful on her exposed skin so we spent the afternoon at a movie theater enjoying Cokes and popcorn then traveled at night.

I arrived home to anxiously awaiting girlfriends wanting to hear every detail of my trip. They were not disappointed. You see, I never felt I was cheated out of an adventure because Jerlene and I didn’t go more places or do more things in Galveston. That trip was the highlight of my summer. I brought home seashells from my day at the beach, a wind chime from the ocean pier, and had memories of foods none of my friends had ever tasted.

But my greatest joy was spending time with my sister. Just the two of us talking, laughing and even crying together. With ten years separating our ages we were both about to plunge into different seasons of our lives. She was soon to be married and I was on the threshold of dating. On that trip we shared hopes, dreams, secrets and promises that would last a lifetime. Now fifty years later, we still reminisce about our grand adventure.

Summer will soon be over. Why don’t you plan a trip or activity with a friend or loved one? You just might make some memories that last a lifetime. 

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