She walked, feeling the soothing touch of the smooth, silken waves as they slipped full and gently past her ankles – a blurred dusk-colour in the half-light of evening, dappled with soft shadows. She felt as though she would like to walk on and on and on and on for eternity, basking in the soft feeling; slipping her soul into the rhythm of the waves, until, maybe one day, she would reach the silver-blue tissue-paper layers of the mist-dream mountains, and live there.
And then thoughts began to flood into her mind that perplexed her.
“How wide and endless the sea is; it makes visible an invisible eternity – and the thought of it, stretching on, and on forever, is almost more than I can bear; it is so great a thought. How many millions and millions of people – as many as there are waves lapping past my legs, perhaps – in all of history, must have dipped their hands in the sea. And the water they dipped them in is still here, will always be here. Nelson’s ship has touched this water, and maybe, all those many, many, many years ago, Odysseus’s. Maybe, some time, another little girl will walk here, and will not know that I did the same, all those years ago. There must be one who did it before, and I know nothing of her.
I wonder who now – for in all the wide world there must be somebody – is walking out into the sea just in step with me? I wonder what she or he is like? Child or adult? I’m going to be an adult before too long. What an odd thought – and I’m not altogether sure I want to be.”
She murmured, softly; “Waves, will you keep my childhood? I know that you will always, always be here, and so then my childhood will always, always be here. And when I am an adult, and I come to the sea, I will remember. I will remember; I will. And I can come and find myself, as I am now – I will find myself dancing with you, waves.”
Twenty years later, a lady walks out to the sea upon the same beach, and by her side a little girl with laughing eyes and glossy curls. Both lady and child look a little like the girl who, years ago, had felt the same waves and looked out upon the same beach – but neither look exactly like. The lady picks up the little girl and kisses her, and laughs.
‘So, you are the little girl who I knew, sometime in the future, would walk out feeling the sea upon her as I did, once. I thought then that I would rather not grow up; but how can I say that now I have you? I am very, very happy being grown-up – and I think I will give you a gift – something very precious to me which I no longer need, for you have replaced it. Take it from the waves – my childhood. It was a very happy childhood, and I hope yours will be as happy.’