I thought I would be happy once I saw the sea again. One year of living in the mid-west has prevented me from visiting a real beach, one which does not mean piles of sand intentionally dumped by men along the edge of a lake like what the campus beach has, but one with all the waves and the sky edging in the horizon. When the girls in my class proposed to have a girls only picnic to the nearest beach during the break which would last for a week, I joined them without hesitation. I figured that a vacation in the beach would really heal all the headache of late-night studying and also my homesickness that usually creeps up upon me whenever holiday arrives. But I was wrong. As I was walking on the sand, watching the glorious setting sun, I missed my family who was thousand of miles away from here even more.
Almost every weekend we would pack away some food and picnic gears and drove two hours to the west of Java. The long drive was always boring and it was not a scenic drive either. It was not until we were nearing the sea that we would see part of the beach here and there, peeking at the edge of gated lands, among the coconut trees, houses, or even in the middle of a traditional market which was divided by a small river filled with small boats owned by local fishermen. When we were little, we would scream with joy whenever we saw it, just like in Finding Wally game. We knew that it meant we almost reached our destination and soon we would be playing at that beach.
Our parents never chose the beach owned by hotels or rented cottages because they usually charged visitors a very expensive amount of fee. We would rather go to empty lots owned by local villagers who would ask only a few thousand rupiahs for a parking fee. We did not always find the right spot on the first attempt, so we sometimes had to drive in and out from not a very inviting parts of the beach, those that have to many rocks or too many visitors. That was why leaving our house as early as possible was crucial because we did not have to compete with so many other people who had the same objective as we did.
As soon as we found the perfect spot, we would bring the tikar, the cooler filled with drinks and the basket filled with foods. My sister and I would go for a swim while our parents would sit on the tikar, talking and munching the snacks made entirely by my Mom. My father was a worshiper of delicious foods while my Mom was a kitchen goddess. They are a perfect match when it comes to foods and eating. My Mom had also prepared a complete meal for lunch. She would call us, who probably were busy looking for clam shells and hermit crabs to have lunch together under the coconut tree. Funny how foods would be ten times more delicious when we ate them out here even when they were a bit cold or when there were only the simplest meals. After lunch, we would play again under the sun, darkening our already brown skin. When we got tired, we would just lie down and had some nap, feeling safe with our parents guarding us close by.
When I opened my eyes, I would see my parents holding hands like the most romantic couple ever lived on earth. I treasure this memory. Maybe that is why I like the beach so much. I noticed how my Father seemed so relax during these trips to the beach. He did not yell at us even once and he did not get angry with Mom as easily as he used to. It was like he was a different person. Mom also looked happier and more confident. She talked and smiled a lot more. Instead of pushing us away in order to finish the household chores like she did at home, she would take time to just watch us playing, listening to our excitement when we talked about our latest found treasure at the beach, and brushing our long hair while drying it in the breezy wind. We would spent the time until the sun disappeared in the horizon and went back home in another two hour drive that did not seem so long after all.
The darken sky and the chilly wind brought me back to the present. I looked into the horizon for the last time and letting the waves touched my toes. Somewhere out there at the edge of the sea, I know my sister, my Mom and Dad might be looking at the same sea and thinking about me and wishing that I would be happy even without them by my side. I turned around and started walking toward the beach house, and was glad to see the barbecue grill out in the patio and my good friends smiling at me, asking where I have been. For now, this is home, and reaping more wonderful memories and treasures is what I am going to do.
Tikar: a mat made from coconut leaves used like a blanket for picnicking