Thursday, August 14, 2014

Day at the beach...

Today's blog challenge is to share a story from childhood.

The youngest of 5 children raised in a small New England town, I have many strong memories of days at the beach.
These days were organized and orchestrated by my mother, who had also been raised in New England and loved going to the beach with a joy-filled passion. I can only imagine what efforts it took to ready 5 kids for such a trip... the extra clothing and towels and blankets and toys she had to arrange for. And there was lunch, too. The typical beach menu was tuna fish sandwiches on white bread, potato chips, Oreo cookies and a fat Thermos full of ice-riddled pink lemonade.

Before we'd leave she would fill my little wading pool in the back yard up with the frigid well water than gushed from the garden hose. "Not yet," she'd tell me, but I couldn't resist dipping my toes in. I'd jerk them right back out again,that water was so cold it hurt.

Then she would load the herd of us into the old, wood sided station wagon. In those days before seat belts I would always get to sit on the "Horsey seat," (the fold down armrest.) We would sing and argue and talk all the way to the beach, and at least once my mother would say, "Be quiet! You children are going to drive me up a telephone pole!" Try as I might, I never could understand how a car could go up a telephone pole, it was something to puzzle over.

The beach of choice was Crane beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts, though sometimes we went to Plum Island instead. We'd all carry something from the car, across the sand parking lot, so hot it burned the soles of our feet, to the long boardwalk through the wiry grass and over the dunes. The world was sand colored and steamy, and then, there it was. The sparkling Atlantic, the unblemished sand, the clusters here and there of families with kids, an occasional beach umbrella, and the never ending cool breeze that came off the water.

Mom would choose a likely spot and set up her beach chair, spread towels for us kids on the sand, and with an expert flick of her wrists smooth the picnic blanket down, weighting the corners with the cooler and Thermos jug and such. Next she'd slather us all with sun tan lotion, and then we would be off, running wild and free towards the water. The "big kids" would hold my hands and we'd all squeal as the first foamy wave washed up over our feet and ankles.

There were sand castles to build, and shells to hunt, and tide pools to explore. Before long we'd brave the freezing waves and leap and yell and splash to our hearts content.

Behind her enormous sun glasses, from the vantage point of her canvas chair, mom would attempt to read a novel while keeping an eye on her brood.

We'd be ravenous by lunch time, and hardly mind the gritty feel of sand on our teeth as we devoured our sandwiches. Nothing ever tasted as good as the lemonade poured into little paper cups after a morning of sun and surf. Then there was usually a walk along the the waters edge as far as the eye could see, and little bits of driftwood to treasure and ropes of seaweed to drag behind me like a dragons tail. And all of that would make for one tired little girl. My mother would instruct the older children to make a circle privacy screen by holding up beach towels, and she would kneel beside me under that cover, stripping my sodden, sand filled bathing suit off. Then she would pour a gallon jug of water that had been warming in the sun over me, rinsing away the worst of the clinging sand from my little legs and behind. I'd cry because this meant the day was nearly over. Dressing me in clean, dry clothes she would marshal the other kids as they picked up our toys and kites and blankets and we would trudge, weary, back across the scalding lot to the car.

Back home, I'd be fretful and hot, and wanting more beach. Mom would let me peel my clothes off and jump, naked, into the wading pool she had filled that morning. Having sat under the sunny sky all day, the water was delightfully warm, and more sand would sift off my skin and make swirling patterns on the blue blue bottom of the pool. My lips would taste of sea salt for just a few more moments until I splashed that good flavor away with fresh water. But no amount of well water could ever wash away the ecstatic memory of a day spent living at the edge of the sea.


Mary Oquendo said...

What a beautiful story and wonderful memory.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful slice of your life! I had similar summer days with my mom at the freshwater lake in my home town. Now I'm the Mom that drags my brood to the sea. Now that they're teenagers they're less excited to be away from their laptops but it does make my day easier since I don't have to worry about anybody drowning. Loved this post!

solarity said...

Growing up in Kentucky, my experience of the beach was limited to the times we would go to the Gulf from my mother's hometown in south Alabama, usually only one day out of the two weeks we spent there every summer, because grown-ups are So Slow to get ready!
My best memory is of the time we spent a night in a motel so we could spend two whole days and my adored older, college-aged cousins came with us. The motel was painted gray and pink, with a stripe of shiny black tar sealant at the bottom, like patent leather shoes, and I have loved that color combination ever since.

Mary Anne in Kentucky