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The North Carolina coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Some rights reserved by Andrew VanderLeest

Oceanside reading

I don’t know how the ocean got in my blood, but it did. Even though we lived hundreds of miles from the ocean, my parents talked about it: water as far as the eye can see, waves rolling and splashing, soft sand to play in, and holes that, if dug deep enough, would allow the ocean to seep in.

In my working-class home, vacation was when we painted the house, put in a new sidewalk, and weeded the garden. There was only one occasion when we actually visited the ocean, but I can still see the snapshots—me at five years old and my parents as great-looking young adults.


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