They disappeared beyond a dip in the shoreline with sun kissed cheeks and tousled hair. One little niece and two nephews arm in arm, sandy feet carrying them down the beach to the rest of our group. With family in town for a long awaited stay, I could almost feel the moments fading.
December was upon us, but the cold grip of winter had yet to settle a firm hold here in the South. A smattering of vacationers and residents basked in the lingering whisper of autumn, lining the soft earth with chairs, coolers of snacks and iced tea.
Soon it would be time to join forces and begin the process of cleaning and packing. To shake the remnants of sand, sea and togetherness from our blankets, collecting towels and toys before trudging across the dunes toward the end of this beautiful day.
But not yet.
I turned, frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean teasing bare ankles, a constant reminder of my role as an unofficial lifeguard to these children of my heart.
Several more little ones played in the waves, jumping and splashing beneath a bright blue sky as seagulls pranced overhead, their soft gray and white wings moving against the late afternoon breeze.
This buzz of activity alternately stirred fear and delight in my nieces and nephews, the flurry of birds soaring high and swooping low at unpredictable intervals drawing a mix of giddy squeals and wide eyes at their unusual closeness.
And I knew these were the moments I wanted to remember.
The love. The laughter. The excitement and thrill of being together with little thought of how quickly it would all be over.
Soon there would be the struggle of herding our crew toward showers and dry clothes. And the duty of lugging armloads of beach gear across the dunes, up a weathered boardwalk and into the parking lot, layers of sand and seashell dust multiplying along the way.
But it would all be worthwhile.
Because along with these strands of time comes high reward when we choose to fully embrace beauty wrapped into the experience.
As time passes, I realize the stark reality of words that have been handed down for generations: “Life is a vapor. Treasure the good moments while you can.” Amid the rhythm of a fast paced life, I know it’s what I want to do, and I’m guessing you do too.
Thinking back on that day now, no longer standing at the water’s edge or surrounded by childlike wonder filtering the salty air, I’m struck by the value woven through these moments of togetherness.
Perhaps it’s a bit like mining for gold, where the sifting of hard work and responsibility is part of a natural process in uncovering shiny nuggets of wealth. A place where effort and reward go hand in hand if we’re willing to pause.
If we’re willing to release the rush and embrace the treasure hidden just below the surface.
All too quickly, times of gathering with those we love will slip through our fingers. But the next time we feel the moments fading, what do you say we linger just a little longer? Let’s fully embrace the present and allow memories to settle, captured forever in our hearts.
Because ultimately, regardless of status or wealth, these tiny slices of time will be worth more than all the gold in the world.