Gulf Shores beach

My mom was 50 the first time she ever saw the ocean. She grew up in the rural Midwest and had a fear of flying, so the closest she had ever gotten to the magical experience of a beach was the muddy banks of the Mississippi River. I kept telling her there was no comparison, but she had to see it for herself to truly understand what I meant. This next trip, I’d finally get her to the gulf shore. 

As a Midwesterner who grows antsy if I go more than a summer or two without hearing the waves crash and feeling the sand between my toes, I made it my mission to get my mother to the beach. I started by trying to conquer her fear of flying, but it was a lost cause. I wouldn’t be getting my mother on a plane.

My mom was 50 the first time she ever saw the ocean.

Getting to the Gulf Shore

The logistics of a trip to either the East or West coast were daunting as I didn’t want to spend a full day in a car, but when I found out we’d be making a driving trip to New Orleans (a mere 9 hours away), I seized my opportunity. We stayed at the Homewood Suites with plans to visit the French Quarter, take a stroll through City Park, and enjoy all the live music and delicious food that we could in our short stay.

On the second day of our New Orleans trip, we headed east to the Gulf shore in Gulfport, Mississippi. I was grinning like a kid on Christmas morning when I watched my mom’s face as she saw the ocean for the first time. Her jaw dropped, and her eyes went wide. She was literally speechless, turning to the left and the right to see the shimmering waves sparkle in the sunlight as far as the eyes could see.

Best of all, my one-year-old daughter, her granddaughter, was there to see the ocean for the first time, too. My daughter’s fearless spirit was contagious, and both of them were frolicking in the waves within minutes. Even though it was October and too chilly for any beach-goers to join us, we enjoyed that empty beach and that pair of firsts together.

It wouldn’t be our last time splashing in the salty spray of the ocean together, and now my mom says her bags are packed whenever we are ready to go again.