Memories of Beach Days

When my sons were of school age, June meant the ending of the school year. In their later grades, I worked full-time, so summertime meant finding activities for them throughout the summer (translation:  keep them busy so they wouldn’t maim each other). But in their earlier years, I worked part-time from home (transcribing court depositions…talk about story fodder!), so I was blessed with the flexibility to do fun things with them.

With memories of hand-made woven potholders running through my head, I enrolled them in the town’s summer youth program–although I must say, arts and crafts seems to be a lost art, at least in our district. They never came home with anything!

I also arranged play dates with friends (theirs and mine). We’d meet at the local parks then head to someone’s house to cool off. At one point we installed an above-ground pool in our backyard, and often had a gang over to splash around in the four-foot depths. Occasionally, I took another page from the book of my youth and hauled them (with assorted paraphernalia) to the beach.

For some reason, they never quite took to the beach as I Atlantic Oceanexpected. And being a mother at the beach–keeping a constant eye on your kids to make sure they haven’t wandered into trouble–is a far more difficult than being one of those carefree kids. So despite the fact that we lived less than ten miles from the Atlantic, we only got there a handful of times each year.

Since my kids have grown, and I moved from New Jersey to Virginia, my beach days have dwindled down to every couple years, usually during the off season. But it takes no more than closing my eyes and a bit of concentration to bring back the beach-filled days of my childhood.

I can smell the air as I approach from the car, scented with a mixture of maritime brine, suntan lotion and concession stand grease. I can feel sand scorching my soles as I hop as if on hot coals from my blanket to the cool safety of the shoreline.

I hear the rhythmic push and pull of the tides. The cries of the gulls on the hunt for crumbs dropped by careless humans. The tinny sounds of someone’s transistor radio playing Top 40 hits of the day. Children whining and mothers scolding, then both laughing.

I feel the strong suck of under-toe that buries my feet in the wet sand, deeper with each wave that sprays my shins and thighs with sand and water. Then I’m advancing, two steps forward and one back, eventually meeting the break-line with a faceful of surf. I pass it and am weightless, borne by the powerful surge that lives and breathes beneath me.

Someone nearby squeals at the sight of a swarm of blob-like, gelatinous jellyfish, and I’m snapped from my daydream, back to the reality of my desk overlooking the tiny backyard of my townhome.

Oh well…it was fun while it lasted. 🙂 And the good news is I can go back anytime I want. I might even get in my car and drive the ten or so miles to the nearby Chesapeake Bay. I think that’s going on my to-do list this summer. I hope you, too, get a chance to spend some time at the beach.

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