I woke up from the deepest slumber I’ve experienced in a long time. You know how things are when you wake up in a different place than normal? This was me. It only took a short while to realize I was in paradise and missing a glorious sunrise.

But I didn’t! I pulled back the curtain and there it was, a teardrop of shimmering orange, gold, and subtle brilliance appearing to drop from the middle of a cloud bank. “There you are,” I said to myself and headed out onto the patio with my camera — well, phone — and snapped pictures.

Seeing the sun come up out of the ocean is something I live for every year. We head to Amelia Island in June to join other family members from different clans to have a giant reunion with all of us connected in some way through blood, marriage, family, and love. We make reservations in the fall and look forward to it from the time the new year comes until the day of departure.

No, we don’t fly. We drive. Some have more miles than others, but no matter. It was so weird this year. With our immediate family coming from different locations, for some reason time was in sync for us. We started waving at each other on 341, then 95. It was just the oddest thing. We all converged in the parking lot within minutes of each other. We hugged. We laughed. We felt joy at seeing people we hadn’t seen in a while. And we had a whole week to enjoy each other’s company.

Some hit the beach pretty quickly. Children had been cooped up in cars for hours, other than a few pit stops. They were raring to go, big time. Boogie boards were unpacked before suitcases and bags of food. Swimwear miraculously was found and put on immediately. Condos were unlocked and massive amounts of “stuff” was dumped on floors, to be organized and put away later. The beach is calling. Now.

On our first night, the eastern sky put on a light show, a magnificent display of lightning waltzing in and out of the clouds that bubbled up from the horizon to mid sky. A huge bolt that looked a mile wide shot toward the sea below and I wondered if a little shrimping vessel dodged it. I didn’t see any distant flames, other than the conflagration of the lightning bolts dancing throughout the clouds. It was the best light show I had seen since last summer.

It was also our firstborn’s birthday. Her darlin’ husband and our precious son-in-law, Will, planned a party of sorts on the beach with sparklers as candles in cupcakes. Although lightning shows over the ocean are splendorous to see, it’s dangerous to chance Mother Nature. Will brought the party up to the patio and all was well. We sang “Happy Birthday” and I remembered that wonderful day when I became a mother for the first time on June 18, 1974, and my Bill became a daddy. Her birth changed our lives forever in a most wonderful way.

This morning, June 19, 2022, is Father’s Day. By the time you read this, it will have passed for another year. It was wonderful being with my husband of 52 years, my two oldest sons — who are fathers to one (Heath) and three (Hayden) respectively — and son-in-law Will, who is the father of two. What a wonderful place to spend this special day with fathers I love.

The sun is now a hot orb in the sky. An ocean breeze is blowing and I can taste salt on my lips. I miss our youngest child, Hartwell, who lives in New Jersey and works in NYC. He and his husband, Christopher, moved up north late last summer. I miss them both.

Our oldest grandchild, Jeffrey, just started a new job and could not get off for this vacation/reunion and we miss him. As families grow and relocate, it’s sometimes difficult for all to get together in one place. I must thank Mary Ray, Will’s mother, for starting to take her family to this vacation spot over 20 years ago. She recently passed away and I miss her presence here with us.

But, oh my goodness. Look at what she started so many years ago. Now, we sometimes have 30 folks, all connected some way, coming together every June to celebrate our lives together. And all because a wonderful woman found this little piece of paradise and started sharing it.

I must wrap this up. The beach is calling me. I hear children squealing and laughing. Yes, this is a piece of paradise. We are blessed.

Coleen Brooks is a longtime resident of Gordon County. She retired as director and lead instructor for the Georgia Northwestern Technical College Adult Education Department in 2013. She can be reached at coleenbrooks1947@gmail.com.

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