Picture Imperfect Essay

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I was five. I felt the moist air soak into my dry, Colorado skin immediately. The bitter cold temperatures were instantly forgotten as the postcards my grandma always sent came alive. The first wave crashed loudly against the shore and I squeezed my mom's soft hand a little tighter. The vast, endless horizon coupled with the boom of the wave frightened me. It was so different than my still, quiet pond at home. Soon my fear was forgotten though, as my sisters ran straight into the big blue monster and laughed with joy. The damp sand at the edge of the lapping waves called my name, asking to be turned into a sand castle full Disney princesses and flying winged horses. People flashed smiles in my direction, laughing because of my obvious wonderment. I was at Charlie Young Beach in Maui, Hawaii. I was in paradise.

I was eight. My mind struggled to remember the faint whispers of the beach three years ago. The black volcanic rocks protruded from the tan sand. Were those the same rocks that had made my fort three years ago? They must have been. My hand ran over their rough, porous surface while their firm stance blocked a wave’s attack. The distinct smell of salt and heat sent a million signals to my mind telling me to smile, for I was finally back. I ran freely after my cousin into the monstrous ocean. Everything was just as it should have been at first: the ocean was deep blue with white foam borders, the hot sand was soft in its own way, and the palm trees towered over me. But a few things weren't quite right. The salt from the ocean stung my eyes; the sand was warm, but full of thorns waiting to grab my bare feet. I took one more deep breath, hoping the smell of the beach would hide these flaws in paradise. As the humid air filled my nostrils, I picked up other scents I had missed before. The smell of salt was mixed with potent sunscreen. The air was no longer clean, but tainted by gasoline from the nearby street. These minor details irritated me, but I pushed these them from my mind, focusing on the warm vitamin D my skin was soaking in and the rush of the flowing water. Yes, this must be the same place. I was back.

I was 15. Had the beach always been like this? Why were there people on every square inch of hot, dry sand? They were like a plague, ruining nature's beauty with all their colorful umbrellas. My fantasy play fort was gone, replaced by reality's charcoal rocks covered in cigarette butts. I dove into the water once again, the...

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