These shoes will always be full of sand

Published 3:24 am Saturday, February 4, 2017

I have heard that once you get sand in your shoes, you keep going back to it. I was around three years old when my parents moved from my Alabama birthplace to Panama City, Fla. I loved it when my mother and my aunt took my cousin and me to the beach. It must have been at that tender age when my own shoes filled with sand—that beautiful white sand at the Gulf of Mexico. I was hooked.

A year or so before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, my daddy responded to a job offer that took us away from Florida and back to Alabama. During vacation time every summer even into my teen years, I spent vacations in Florida, visiting the beach. I did not necessarily have to go to the beach to satisfy my fascination with the water and sand. My aunt lived close to a bay where my cousin and I played in the water and on its sandy shore. It was my dream to return there one day to live.

Time passed and I met a handsome career soldier who had just returned to the states from Korea. When we married, he swept me away to Fort Jackson, his duty station in Columbia, S.C. Although he had traveled extensively during his past six years of Army duty, he had never been to Panama City. I could not wait to for him to experience the beauty of the sand and the gulf. I was certain he would get sand in his shoes. He did to an extent. We spent almost all our summer vacations at or close to the beach and introduced our children to its beauty and wonders.

The army moved us to several states and a tour in Germany before my husband’s long-anticipated retirement time finally occurred. I was ready to head to Florida, to live my dream since my shoes were still full of sand, but we had to face reality. My husband accepted a job offer at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tenn., where he had been stationed, teaching ROTC. We bought our first house and settled in. We liked the friendly town of Cookeville, but we wearied of the extreme winter weather. When he received an army retiree newsletter with information about new high school ROTC units organizing in Alabama, he submitted his resume.

When he received a reply about a new unit opening in Andalusia, we rushed to our atlas to look up Andalusia. It was 90 miles from Panama City. Our trip to Andalusia for my husband’s interview with the city superintendent of education revealed it was a beautiful little town.

He was offered the job and accepted—not because of our sand-filled shoes, of course, but because God sent us there. We still spent vacations at the gulf and occasionally drove to Florida for a day’s outing at the beach.

And my shoes? Well, no matter how much I shake them, they are still full of sand.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.