Four snapshots of gratitude from a beach vacation ::

— 1. After hitting the beach that first morning of our family vacation, I played Uno back at the house with my sons, their hair still wet from the ocean. I would have preferred for one of them to win, but the cards fell in my favor. My boys scampered off on their own, leaving me at the table to shuffle through memories of my childhood. How I hated to lose! I remembered beating my father in Old Maid by looking at the reflection of the cards in his glasses!

There was a trip several decades ago to a different beach when my grandparents invited me to play Rook for the first time. This a bidding game, like Spades, and the strategy was over my head. I must have been a liability to my partner! Yet, what I most remembered was the patience and kindness of the adults.

My younger son interrupted these thoughts by asking if we could play again. And I excitedly dealt the cards.

2. The next day I jogged to the end of the beach where the ocean met the sound. This was a short distance from where the rest of my family had set up on the sand, but was still a slog. I had not been running in months, preferring to meander through the woods with our new dog, a form of exercise good for my soul but not to raise my heart rate.

I plodded underneath the hot sun, paying more attention to my aching legs and ragged breath than the swimmers, sunbathers, or seagulls, when suddenly a small blond boy came out of nowhere and started running beside me. With a wild grin, the boy shot ahead! Not to be outdone, I managed my own burst of

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