“Sure thing, Grandpa,” he replied, his eyes as wide and his smile as earnest as only a 5-year-old can manifest.
The old man watched as Ryan picked up handfuls of cold sand that he let fall behind him as he ran up and down Main Beach. He picked a spot near the lifeguard tower and sat down. His knee ached. He stretched out both legs and tried not to think about it. Knees had always been troublesome things.
So he didn’t think about his knee or the occasional pains he got in his chest very near his old zipper-like scar. He also tried not to think about other beaches, other Decembers, other people. It’s what you did when you got old, push some thoughts out too quickly and dwell too long on others.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a little girl, younger than Ryan, walking towards him. She had a plastic pail in one hand and a plastic shovel in the other. She knelt down next to him and started digging into the sand.
He looked around to find a mother or father or someone, but he saw only groups of people, none of which were acting concerned about a child who may have wandered off. Ryan seemed to have acquired a friend and they were running back and forth, making airplane noises.
He watched the little girl as she carefully examined each and every small shovelful of sand.
“Are you digging for treasure?”
She looked at him and smiled, a dimple emerging from her plump cheeks.
“No,” she said, shaking her head and going back to work digging.
He watched as she plucked out small stones, pieces of shells and whatever else she sifted from the sand and placed them in her beach pail.
He looked up to check on his grandson and rubbed his knee.
The little girl had stopped and was cleaning the sand from a piece of sea glass. She stood and held it in her palm.
“For you,” she said, holding it out for him to look at.
“Alice, sweetie, come back here and stop bothering people,” a woman said as she approached the two of them.
“She wasn’t bothering me at all,” the old man said.
“I’m so sorry. Come on, Alice. Time to get going home. It’s almost sunset,” she said as she scooped up the pail and shovel and put out her hand for Alice to take.
The little girl was still holding the piece of sea glass.
“For you,” she said again.
“Thank you, Alice,” he said as he took it from her. “Good-bye.”
“Bye,” said Alice before she dutifully took her mother’s hand.
The old man shifted himself and stared out at the sun setting over the Pacific.
Ryan came over and sat next to him.
“Is it almost time, Grandpa?” he said.
“Almost. The solstice only lasts a split second and you have to be very quick to catch the flash of blue light.”
“But we may have missed it this year,” he said looking down at the piece of sea glass in his hand.
He held it up and let the last rays of the setting sun hit, making the whole world blue for one small moment of time.
Ryan looked at his grandfather. “That is so cool. I love you, Grandpa,” he said and the light that came from those words was brighter and deeper than kingfisher blue.
Rina Palumbo, a member of the Third Street Writers group, lives and works in Laguna Beach. She would like to remind anyone interested that the solstice is Dec. 21 at 8:28 p.m.