Seagulls and cereal

When I was nine years old, my parents took us to Disneyworld. They loaded the station wagon to capacity with the family of nine for the trek from our farm in Minnesota to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Other than memories of the photos of our Disneyworld visit, I don't remember much about the Magic Kingdom. I don't recall how long we stayed, what we saw, what we did.

I do, though, recall the beach house my dad rented for much of our stay in Florida. Not the inside of the beach house, but the outside, the beach part of the house.

Specifically, I recall one of our first golden mornings on the beach as my six siblings and I danced along the edge of the water, dodging waves and soaking up the sun we'd been missing back home in the still dark and chilly days of winter. The light, the air, the tranquility so unfamiliar, so inviting.

We exhalted in the sandy expanse of the beach, quite different from our usual playground of soybean fields and dusty dirt roads. We raced in opposite directions. Like colorful kites in our new vacation outfits, we flitted about as the breeze refreshed our skin and our smiles, the sand tickled our toes, the distance between us and the beach house a relished freedom from the angry discourse between Mom and Dad surely taking place inside, a never-ending discourse the change in scenery failed to obliterate.

Seagulls danced merrily above our heads and someone — my mom? my older brother? — suggested we feed them. With our breakfast, our dry cereal. One quick toss of the cereal and we were sold.

My siblings and I took turns throwing cereal pieces into the air then shrieking in delight as one seagull after another swooped down to nab the goodness mid-flight. A magical memory in the making.

Handful after handful we tossed to the seagulls, who never grew tired of our treats. Eventually, though, we grew tired, beckoned by the wonders of the water, an ocean we'd never seen before just waiting to be explored. We tossed the last of our offerings and moved on.

With the cereal consumed, the seagulls moved on as well, their white wings soaring smoothly as they disappeared into the summer haze above the water. A golden moment gone for good.

The other night at dinner, Jim and I had a conversation that took an unexpected turn down memory lane. Not the lane we've traveled together the past 30 years, but his from childhood and teenhood, before I knew him. He shared again stories few outside his family know, stories they're reluctant to share.

Then he shook his head, physically shaking off the memories.

Why do we always remember the bad things? he asked. What about the good things? We have to have good memories, right? I know the stories of your bad memories, but tell me one good memory you have from childhood. You have to have at least one.

Do I have at least one good memory of childhood? I surely must have a few, I thought.

Without hesitation I told Jim the one about the seagulls, the one about the cereal. I told him the one I remember.

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Today's question:

What is one of your favorite memories of childhood?