My fears were groundless: heading south on Pacific Coast Highway out of Long Beach, the only fog confronting me was internal. The closer I got to San Diego, the more impenetrable it became. Why did I choose the coast route? Was I stalling for time, or just revisiting old stomping grounds? I should have known four hundred miles driving down from Fresno would be time enough.
What a mess. Only in summer did traffic used to be this heavy--but this was February. I strained to find old landmarks: how could ten years bring such change? I wish my husband were driving.
How could I keep Bridget's secret? Without any contact for three years, Cranda still hoped for even a word confirming her missing daughter was alive. Now out of nowhere, why did Bridget call me, insisting on secrecy?
Were the girls eleven when we moved away? What a surprise Bridget remembered us, after all that happened. How could she do it...how could anyone be so selfish to vanish like that from college and never even call? How could she...
They say she's guilty. What choices could lead my daughter's childhood friend to murder? Could she change that much? Perhaps...after all, even her name is different.
How did we lose her? I remember Bridget crying in her mother's kitchen: she was eight then. "No, you can't take Bridget to church: I don't want anyone messing with her mind," Cranda insisted. "When Bridget grows up she can make her own decision about religion--she doesn't need you to make it for her." Would things have been different if she had gone?
Such a pretty child, and those eyes...Her voice was flat last night when she called: was it shame or resignation? Maybe despair. I could bear almost anything--if only her eyes aren't dead. Adulthood confronted both her and my Tina: at twenty-one, Tina anticipated God's best, but Bridget faced a lifetime in prison. What went wrong?
On my right the ocean sparkled past a broad expanse of parking lot bordered by clean, white sand. Only a few surfers in wetsuits challenged impudent waves, while joggers traversed wet sand marking God's boundary for the water. I smiled at the road sign proclaiming "Bolsa Chica State Park". How few people remember it now as I do: how few would believe it.
I still remember driving past this three-mile-stretch just north of Huntington Beach when I was a child in the 1950's. I remember staring in amazement at pile upon pile of trash, heaped several stories high in a mountain range of tin cans and bottles upon the shore. Did it start from one person discarding one stray can in a single act of carelessness? Was that enough to make it easy for all who followed? Eventually, it became difficult to visualize this now priceless real estate as anything other than a dump.
Tin Can Beach remained a dump until 1961 when the state bought it back. Under new ownership the task of cleanup began, dwarfing a fleet of heavy equipment like Goliath did David. I remember how we laughed as the dozers chugged past. As trucks hauled load after load away, the mountains flattened imperceptibly. We failed to notice until one day cleanup suddenly seemed possible. It began with one person: someone with vision to see beyond the present circumstance; someone who remembered this spot as Shell Beach, known for its clams, and with faith enough to reclaim it. I wonder who?
I parked by the road to stare: what an accomplishment! I don't know when they changed the name to Bolsa Chica, but I'm glad they did: once redeemed, Tin Can Beach doesn't fit anymore.
"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Where did that come from? I wondered. How could anyone have that much faith? I didn't want to think about Bridget: it made me uncomfortable.
Jesus paid the price: He makes all things new.
Not with a change of owner.
Dear God, I prayed: I don't know where to begin.
I watched the mellow waves crash in sets upon one of the finest beaches in California, a haven now for both people and birds.
One can at a time, my daughter: one can at a time.
Soon I would be facing Bridget. Such a pretty child, and those eyes...
Matthew 17:20 NIV
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