0168

My stepdaughter Emily Towers stares at the sea as if hypnotized by the rhythm of the waves. 

If you get in the water, you’re going to burn. We learned our lesson recently by day’s end, playing and fishing in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

No matter how you slather on the waterproof SPF 70, it will wash off when you hit the irresistible green sea. Sometimes the water is warmer than the air. It lures you. “Play in me. Float in me. Fish in me. Be a kid again,” it beckons with waves tugging you forth. Before you know it, hours have passed, and the glow of the sun becomes the glow of your skin. You cringe at the sight of your tan line with its future cancer implications.

Gulf Shores, Ala., is hard to beat. My kids call it “the magical place” for its beauty, the mystery of the ocean, the fun it promotes and a serious memory bank from a lifetime of vacationing there. Plus, time seems to stand still.

Trudging through the sand alone is heavenly. I have lived in Florida and California and know the beaches well. I have been all over the Caribbean and Mexico, and nowhere have I seen finer sand than in the Gulf Shores area. It is so soft, you can play in it, fall in it and never get hurt. Why don’t fitness centers make a track of this sand? I would be there every day to walk through it barefoot for miles.

Each morning at the beach, you make your way through the dunes with your cup of coffee to ascertain the condition of the sea and sky. It is your only job for the day.

If you rent your own house on stilts for the week, your strip of beach is blissfully uninhabited except for an occasional beach walker.

Fishing off the shore never fails to bring a variety of surprises at the end of the line. You never lose respect for the ocean, as a shark may circle you, a stingray may swim by or a wave may clobber you.

At night, you lie on your backs on a big beach quilt and stare at the sky. The Milky Way glows like you’ve never seen it, rising out of the ocean like a great hook from the southwest to the northeast. Shooting stars are so easy to see that you lose count.

As much fun as the beach is, the best part is reconnecting with the family. I had not seen my kids together in many years. A few minutes here and there with faraway loved ones on the phone does not compare to sitting for hours on the beach talking with no cares. You trade stories about the details of your lives that you would not have shared otherwise.

By week’s end, your bonds have grown, and you know your family better. You feel sound knowing they are progressing through life well. The kids fill you with the spirit of youth and hope.

You return to your busy life a refreshed soul. The memories are set and provide fuel to get you through until you can return to the beach and rejuvenate, revive and reconnect again.

For the first week back, your mind will wander to what you were doing one week earlier. You keep a seashell in your purse to rub occasionally, as if a genie might materialize and grant you a wish to return to the magical place, where time stands still.