Love, like all emotions, surfaces like a distinct and fast-moving weather pattern, a subtle and ever-shifting force. ~Barbara Fredrickson, Love 2.0
The summer is ending and it is morning on the boardwalk. It is as perfect of a morning as there is going to be.
An elderly couple walks past me and find, what I assume to be their usual spot on the boardwalk. They are nuzzled up to the railing overlooking the beach. Each are carrying their provisions. He has his chair, a newspaper and a small neon blue and silver insulated lunchbox. She carries two small sun umbrellas, her chair, and an identical cooler.
They walk at a pace that is slow yet synchronized. He moves toward her left. She moves to his right. It is clear they have done this before. It is the end of the summer, but for them they know the crowds will soon go — and the beach will be free — and they can set up in the sand. But for now it is enough that they will watch the comings and goings from their perch on the boardwalk. They are not wearing swimsuits. The ocean is for watching.
Nothing he has on matches. Nothing. He has a blue straw hat and a faded orange shirt with green paisley shorts. The fights they had earlier in their married life about how he dresses are over. His sunglasses are old and large and very dark. The neon insulated coolers look like space-age moon packs—but his chair might have been the one he took to Woodstock. It is a worn and washed-out orange that has clearly lost the zing it once had—but it still works fine. Just fine, thank you.
She is fully color coordinated with an oversized blue and white beach dress with a plain straw wide-brim hat with a faded blue band with sunglasses atop. She manages two dusty blue and gray umbrellas and a clean, sturdy, gray and navy blue beach chair.
He is in the lead position and walks to a spot (their spot?) next to the railings and snaps open his seat. The dutiful orange-ish beach chair responds to the command and, like a thousand time before, it finds its form and invites its owner to sit—and stay. He does—and falls into the familiar embrace of the chair and fusses with the placement of the cooler and newspaper.
She does not have the chair snapping talent of her husband and it won’t behave. As if waiting for his cued entrance he takes and arranges the chair for her and settles it with a few jabs to make sure it will hold her. Before she sits she circles the small space getting ready to make a landing. She moves and then moves again the lunchbox.
Then she hands him one of the small umbrellas and he unsnaps and opens it. She does the same—but with less ease and finesse. As he reaches over to attach the umbrella to the top of her chair she has circled around to the back of his and attaches it —seconds before he completes hers. It is the dance of the umbrellas.
In her final approach she surveys their hamlet and is pleased with their arrangement. She stands facing the ocean, holds onto the railings and squats into the frame of her chair. There is some adjustment from both of them once she is down. The umbrellas tweaked, the bags nudged, and the newspaper separated for sharing. She pulls down her sunglasses from the top of her hat as the paper lies in her lap.
Music only they could hear has stopped and there tango is done— replaced with a moment of complete stillness. They have stopped time—again. But one gesture remained that shows the reason they came. As if cued by an invisible conductor his right hand and her left reached down in synchrony and clasped. The newspapers can wait, and the lunch will keep. But for now they have claimed their space on the boardwalk and have, yet again, renewed their vows.