Picture of beach stems from memories

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 17, 2003

When Gertrude Register was 13 years old, she saw the beach for the first time in her life.

It was winter and the Maryland coastline was covered with snow. Her sister begged her to come build a Santa Claus snowman with her, but it was too cold for Register.

She did not know then that the beaches of the sunny South would one day be one of her favorite places. Those beaches are now a memory.

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Register is a resident at Pike Manor Health Care Center. She is 85 years old, but her memories of sugar white sands are vivid.

She can't remember the last time that she visited the beaches of Florida's Panhandle, but that's not important. What is important is that she remembers fondly how it used to be.

She gave so much thought to the beaches that she decided she would like to have one of her own. So, she put her thoughts together and created "picture" of a beach.

She removed all of the workings from a console television and gave her house the once over looking for any items that she could use to make the huge shadow box.

"I had a lot of things around the house needed to be thrown out," she said. "Everybody is like that.

I found balls, babies, ducks, fish — a lot of things that I could use that would make a nice picture."

Register's grandson, Dewayne Parker, realized how important the project was to his grandmother, so he got involved. He went to Panama City Beach and brought back a bucket of sand for the "picture."

"That was just what I needed," Register said.

For two years, Register worked on her picture of the beach - always looking for something to add to it, sometimes changing it to suit her "fancy."

When she finally decided that the beach was just a fanciful and wonderful as she has remembered, she turned the television to pause and there it has stayed.

"It's like I want it because it's the way I remember it," she said.

Every picture deserves a name and Register didn't have to think long before naming hers.

"I called it Mickey's Beach," she said. "Mickey was my son. He was the baby and he did love pretty things. The picture was a pretty thing and I named it for him. He would have liked the picture because it was so pretty and he loved pretty things better than anyone in the world."

Register, also, loves pretty things and dolls, all kinds of dolls.

"I've always like dolls," she said. "I put a lot of dolls in the beach picture."

Register had taken good care of the dolls in her life because she knew how painful it could be to lose one.

When she was a very young child, she and her sister got baby dolls for Christmas.

"We had a bed with big knobs on the posts and we put our babies up there to show them off," she said. "All of a sudden, they went 'Blam!' They fell off and broke into all kinds of pieces."

Register said she remembers standing and looking at her broken baby and tried not to cry, but she couldn't help it.

"I cried and cried and cried," she said. "But it didn't' do any good. My mama and daddy didn't have any money to buy me another one. I took care of my babies after that."

Mickey's Beach is now safely stored away so that it's not broken or dismantled. So, for Register, the beach is just a memory.

But a very good one.