It can take as long as forty five minutes to get there, to get to our beach, though it’s not all that far away. The hardest part is getting out of town. Once you get there you have to circle for parking most days, and then unload your stuff. We go often enough that our trunk doubles as a colossal beach bag. Each trip involves some decisions–blanket or chairs? sunshade or not? which sand toys? the kite? At this point, I usually think it’s not worth it. Then there’s the schlepping of all of our stuff. where the small one thinks a bucket might be just a little too much for her to carry. At that point, I think even more that it’s clearly not worth it.
But we haul our stuff across the lot, and drag it down the long boardwalk, through the bathhouses, and out onto the sand. We find a place, and set up shop. If we are with W, we set up near the snack bar because he doesn’t like crowds. If we are not, we set up as close to the water as we can, usually close to the bathhouses, because that’s where the kids cluster. Two chairs, and more for guests. A sunshade sometimes, or today, an umbrella. The toys are dumped onto the sand. I can barely get myself situated in my chair before Selam is in the water. She runs to the water, leaping over the line where the tide deposits all the shells. A few goose-steps. “It’s cold!” A few more, and then she dives under the water, her brown head bobbing, slick as an otter in the shallow waves.
She’s back and chattering, singing the song of the waves and the cold and the sand and the potential of sandcastles and cartwheels and sand angels. Every child at the beach is a potential friend. “Hi. Do you want to be my new friend?” They slither in the brown sugar, building castles, digging holes, finding rocks and shells that sparkle under the water, though when dry are merely grey and brown.
There are snacks to eat, special treats for the beach only–swedish fish and vinegar and sea salt chips in the tall cardboard cone. She drinks sports drink in an unnatural shade of blue that turns her tongue azure, and dries green on her chin. The seagulls flitter around, charmed by the chips, singing their plaintive stories.
Bubble wands are held up to the wind, and I always check to be sure that our neighbors are charmed and not annoyed. We may take a trip to the nature center, or not. We may bring out a kite to fly, or not. I may read or just stare into the space where the only thing that separates water from sky are the children in their bright swimsuits.
Time stands still. I never know what time it is. I never care. There are no televisions there, and only rarely does my phone come out. There are no sermons, no jobs, no bosses or bills, no bullies or math facts or DRA tests to distract. There is just wind, just water, just sticky arms and frosted legs, the smell of sunscreen and french fries, the sky wide enough for an unfettered hope.
We leave in time to grab dinner, usually, at the place we love–me for the fish and her for the carousel that twirls sticky girls in circles.
Home and spent, we drag the wet things into the apartment. There is always a bag of rocks and shells, dull and flat in the ziplock bag. “I thought they were pretty!” she cries.
They are, of course. Just add water.