Ella McNeece

Purple Sundress

My earliest memories are my trips to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The smell of Grandpa’s pancakes in the morning. The sounds of the aluminum steps down to the beach. The taste of Ben & Jerrys while watching the sunset filled with orange and pinks. My cousins and I grew up with this place, our little cottage overlooking the bay. We visited for weeks at a time during the summer. The bay is calmer and warmer than the oceanside. It was a playground of small ocean creatures, sand bars, and shallow water. 

It was just us four. We all crammed in one room with two twin beds. It was a small cottage. As the only girl, the princess, I always got a bed. The boys, however, consistently fought over who would sleep in a bed or on a cot. Unfortunately, we grew out of our little cottage, so the family made a decision to upgrade: a beautiful house. We had a separate room for every cousin, but on the first night when it was time for bed, the adults came to find out all the grandchildren were packed in one singular room. It was, after all, a tradition. 

The four of us were always playing football games and having competitions. Who’s the fastest? Who can run away from the waves quicker? Who can skip a rock farther? Who can stay up the latest? And my all time favorite: Who can build the best sandcastle? Our sandcastles towered on the bay beach. Decorated with beach rocks, sticks, and snails, they were regal. They stood up against the tide- for a while. Inevitably taken back by the tide. I learned the ocean always wins, just like the surety of the setting sun.

We explored the vast salty bay when the tide was out. A mile or more away from the cottage, maybe- unbelievably far. How can the water move so much? We were adventurous and daring children. Grandma had to keep a close eye on us, so we wouldn’t get into mischief. On these adventures, we found shells, shrimps, and crabs. The crabs would sometimes lose a leg, claw, or whole shell, and we would collect them all. At the end of the day, our pails were filled to the brim with our sea life treasures, and the bottom of my purple sundress soaked from running in the shallow waves.

The last time we went to Cape Cod, we were all teenagers. I’m leaving next year, ending my teenage years and becoming an adult. There is so much excitement about taking the next step, but there is the bittersweetness of growing up, the bittersweetness that caused us to stop our Cape Cod trips. We all became too busy, never finding an open week to all travel together. School, sports, and jobs changed the time we could spend together. Our grandparents don’t vacation as much now anymore. Living for a week, like a big family, will probably never again be possible.

I guess we all have childhood memories like this, faded memories that bring us to a simpler time. My memories of splashing cousins in the waves and holding my grandpa’s hand have created who I am.

Although, my tiny feet, which embedded the wet sand, have been long washed away by the waves. My purple sundress turned into a graduation gown, the dreams sparked by my memories are the takeaway from this melancholy reflection.

I walked along my childhood beach, 6 years have passed since I’ve last seen it. The pebbles and stones, which have decorated our sandcastles, have been replaced by plastic bags and cans. The steps to the beach have rusted and worn away from the rising tides. The boulders themselves which line the wall, protecting my childhood home have flattened and diminished. I found it harder to find one crab. The fish my cousins and I attempted to catch as they swam around our ankles have fled. I passed a little girl, sitting in the sand, setting a discarded soda can beside her barren sandcastle.

I fear the future of the little girl’s decorations on her sandcastle will be bottle caps and cigarette butts. The little girl, running in the waves, will no longer fill her pail with crabs and snails. The little girl will no longer clutch her Grandpa’s hand, gleefully grabbing her treasures from the seafloor. The little girl, in years to come, will never know the home of the little cottage overlooking the bay. 

The little girl’s childhood has been taken away because of the effects of global warming. I’m going to change this, not just for my beach, but so the little girl can have the same memories as I do. I dream she will have the opportunity to watch her own beautiful sandcastle sink beneath the waves. I dream her beach will not be taken away like mine. I dream to save our memories.

Purple Sundress

by Ella McNeece, ’25
Nonfiction, 2022

Major: Marine Science

When we are kids, we had dreams. Some of us dreamed to be an astronaut, princess, doctor, but I always dreamed to be a marine scientist. My story begins with my family, who encouraged my interests of the deep blue sea. I wrote this piece to demonstrate what my purpose has always been: to save the seas. Writing is the connection to the soul, it allows the expression of feelings through words. I want the reader to feel my passion and connection towards the sea.