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What I never learned growing up.

I was raised to always think of others, never myself. Maybe you were too. As a mother, I am committed to the task at hand, toiling relentlessly, day after day, doing all the things I think I need to do to help our teen get through high school and into college and the best life for them. I carry endless lists in my brains and phone- arrange the tutors, get more milk, call the college counselor, check on the Common App, the essay, the activity list. Oh, I almost forgot: Parents open house at school this week, senior photo on Wednesday, night class starting on Thursday, make appointment for his physical. What I always forget- nay, don't even think of is what I may need. That is, until a good friend, also a mom of teens texts to say we HAVE to make it to the beach this week because the weather is so good, our last week of screaming hot days. She keeps on me, God bless her, telling me my husband can meet with the contractor alone (he confirmed that he could,) and that I can catch up on laundry another day. How right she was.

We drive over the winding, golden hilltop roads that separate us from our beloved ocean, arriving mid-morning on a weekday, to a beach with few people but hundreds of birds arranged in groups like art on the sand in front of us. We set up our chairs and drinks and let our conversation flow easily over us like the cool breeze from the water. Later, we walk the four miles to the next tiny town and back slowly on the beach, where dogs run and sniff us, and a few young children and their mother's play. We critique the beachside houses we walk past, none of which we could afford even if we liked the windows, the layout or the paint. When we return to our sand chairs, we notice the seagulls had been through our bags, but it doesn't matter somehow. Quietly, my emotions sneak out unannounced. I feel sated. Contented. Happy. Relaxed, as if I had had a drink when iced tea was the only beverage at hand. It was like magic, these few hours away, with all responsibilities left in capable hands that weren't my own, staring at the ocean, doing nothing, this time with a good friend, who after twenty years- which neither of us can believe- knows all my highs and lows, and has shared them all. Yes, I realize. This is what I needed but didn't even know it. Thank you, my good friend, for gifting me this day at the beach. Thank you for teaching me to care for me. It's a lesson I was never taught at home.

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