On the eve of the departure, my mother wouldn’t go to bed. I would fall asleep listening to the small noises she made while packing the many bags we would take and then tidying up the whole house. On that last night, I was three, four, or five years old and my sleep was intermittent. Then, at a certain hour, partly awakened by my sisters, partly by my own excitement, I got out of bed when it was still dawn. It was very early when we left.

Even today, when I go to Santa Cruz beach, I breathe the same air from that time. The waves crash forcefully onto the sand and throw salt into the air. As I breathe it in, I taste it, and at the same time, I feel it sticking to my skin. Later, if I happen to touch any part of my skin with my lips, the back of my hands, for example, they taste like salt, they taste like the sea. Everything tastes like the sea.

With my parents and my sisters, as a child, we made that long car journey at the beginning of the holidays. We arrived at Santa Cruz beach in the late morning. I was very young, my family gave me special freedom, so while they unloaded the car, I would immediately start playing. I was always the young boy. My sisters were teenagers and often, when they talked about me, they called me “the young boy”. From the time I was born until I was six years old, I always spent a week of vacation at Santa Cruz beach. The first memory of my life happened during one of those vacations. When we were at home, we knew that outside there was the sea. During that time, the sea was always nearby, it always existed. That was the giant sea, the ocean of big waves. It still is.

I had a ball, I had car toys that I let slide down a ramp, and I always followed my sisters around. For breakfast, I ate yogurt in glass jars that my mother kept and reused for various purposes. I had a shovel, a plastic rake, and a bucket to play in the sand. I would approach the sea and run away when the waves stretched out, then I would approach again and run away again.

I spent a lot of time under the beach umbrella, sitting next to my mother, amazed by the rock that has a hole in the center and is crossed by the ocean’s full force. That rock, one of the symbols of Santa Cruz beach, is like a cathedral sculpted by nature.

In the evening, on the terrace, I would sit with my father on loungers without mattresses, we would sit directly on the springs, which left imprints on our backs, and we would be together and listen to the roar of the sea. I am sure that the voice I remember, so calm, was his voice telling me many things, answering everything I asked him. I am sure I can remember the sound of my father’s voice on those afternoons. Those were days of peace.

The last year we spent vacation at Santa Cruz beach was the year I started school. After that, at a more or less steady pace, I grew up. The eighties, the nineties, two thousand and now. Throughout this time, I have been in places I couldn’t predict. Similarly, there will come a future that, at this moment, is unpredictable. But throughout my life, when I have to talk about vacations, I am sure that I will start by remembering the place where I learned the meaning of that word.