I've told you about my crazy nice, Mame Diarra, in the past. Her growing relationship to the beach and to the ocean has been something that I have taken great delight in, and which I have been stoked to see happen on the same sands and in the same water as my own oceanic life began.
This summer, her love of waves has become fully fledged and it is almost impossible to get her to the beach now without her little foam bodyboard - her 'surfboard' - in tow. I take her into the shorebreak and choose 'big ones' for her to catch into shore. She kicks her little, not-quite-four-year-old legs to keep her momentum going as the whitewash carries her across the shallow water and into shore. Mame Diarra can't swim, but that doesn't stop her as she fearlessly runs back out to me, standing waist-deep in the water. Her brother, Falilou is the same. He paddles out the back to catch unexpectedly big waves on his bodyboard. The biggest thing holding him back is me, as I struggle to manage my excited, squirming niece in the shore-break, unable to keep my eyes enough on my eight year-old nephew, worrying about what I would do with the two of them if he got caught in a rip... He certainly doesn't share my concerns. As I call out to him to come further in, he rolls his eyes and pretends not to hear me. The kids' father is from Senegal, and has told me multiple times that 'black men don't swim'. I've always bristled at him saying this, especially around the kids. (Today I happily noticed that Surf Sista has something to say about this too!) Watching the obvious confidence and joy they find in the water, whitewash and waves is such a pleasure for me.
Just before new year, Mame Diarra, my sister and I went to a BBQ at Wategos beach for Falilou's birthday. She was keen to swim with me, so we ran down to the water. The way the sand is there at the moment means the shore drops quickly away, so I had to carry her in my arms and on my hip into the waves. She wriggled and squirmed and was so hard to hold onto! 'Stop wriggling, Mame Diarra! You can't swim', I told her at one point. 'But I can kick!' she shot back, trying to squirm back out of my arms. We would duck under the waves and she would pop back up, wiping the salt-water from her eyes, excited for more. As one bigger wave approached, I pulled her onto my back and caught it in towards the shore.
'It's like flying!' she cried out, urging me back to do it again.
My heart. Oh my heart!