“What better way to spend the forth of July than at the beach,” my daughter’s voice chirps through the phone. I agree, as we have no other plans, and it has been awhile since we had a family day.
I gather my beach accessories: my favorite beach towel, large enough to wrap me up like a burrito, bottles of cold water & pop, sandwiches, chips, apples, sunglasses, sunscreen #15, & 30, hairbrush, chap-stick, change for parking, beach umbrella & chairs, camera, blow-up floats, cooler & ice, a good book, and ear buds for my iPhone. Oh. And a pen and notebook just in case I get inspired to write.
My husband approaches me with his pile of treasures, expecting me to cram them into my already bulging beach bag. I do my best, but toss his towel back at him. “That isn’t going to fit.”
My daughter arrives, a picture perfect beauty in her cute bikini. She’s thin blond tanned—and needy. “Ma, can you fit this in your bag? I don’t want to take my purse.” I halfway unzip my beach bag, stuffing her items in one by one, and then re-zip, inch by stitch-popping inch. It now weighs forty pounds and I’m afraid it’s going to explode under the pressure.
We ride to the beach, a short twenty-minute trip; the morning sun is mellow on the hazy horizon, warming my face. I’m filled with gratitude for hot coffee, this beautiful day, and getting to spend time with my family.
Our parking juju is good—snagging the last available parking spot! Opening the trunk, a blur of arms reach in snatching personal items and exiting, not wanting to commit to toting the communal umbrella, floats, chairs and cooler. “Wait a minute!” I shout, handing out items like parking tickets to grumblers and shirkers, leaving an ample pile at my feet called, “my share.”
I sling the forty-pound bag over my shoulder, drape my king-sized towel over my arm, loop a deflated pink float around my neck like dog collar, and then eye the monstrosity in front of me. It’s a heavy metal, old timey lawn chair that I bought at a yard sale for a buck, and now I wish I hadn’t. I hoist the chair and begin my trek.
I’m moving at a snail’s pace because the chair is banging against my leg with each step forward, step bang, step bang. Ouch! A group of golden-haired teens turn and snicker. I want to smack them. Instead I imagine a future version of them—old and decrepit. This thought makes me smile.
My daughter is way ahead, looking for a slice of beach called Nirvana. She believes the further away she walks the better the real estate. One patch of sand looks the same as the next to me, but the sun is at ten o’clock, and I still have some energy in reserve, thanks to my morning coffee fest, so I follow along like a mute pack mule, relieved when my husband finally bellows, “I’m not walking any further!”
We decorate our little plot of paradise by draping the chairs with cheerful towels, and spearing the sand with our candy-striped umbrella, creating a personal oasis with a gorgeous view. I crack open a bottle of water and my book, reclining like a queen without a care in the world, occasionally lowering my book to scan the sea, always hoping for a dolphin siting.
It’s been at least an hour, maybe two. I can’t tell because time sort of disappears out here, with nothing changing but the cloud patterns and the position of the sun. I’m hot, hungry, and I have to pee. I check the time. We’ve only been here for 35 minutes. I nibble on some chips and dig back into my book.
I used to tell my kids not to hold their pee until it was too late. The facilities are far away and my bladder is ready to burst. Damn coffee!
I make my way to the water, keeping my eyes on the ground, the same way I watch the night sky for falling stars, only now I’m looking for shells, shark’s teeth, and star fish.
The water is cold. My daughter is already splashing around in the waves like a mermaid. She spots me on the water’s edge and shouts, “just jump in you big ninny. It’s warm!” I ignore her taunting, and find a seat on the shallow end. I have no intentions of going all the way in. I sit amongst the rocks, shells, and toddlers, attempting to look contemplative, as a wave knocks me over backwards, filling my bathing suit bottom with sand.
I right myself—and pee…trying to conceal my guilty conscience, after all, what about the toddlers splashing nearby? I look and notice a diaper drooping heavily between one little guy’s knees, full of urine and seawater. “He’s used to pee,” I tell myself, as my bladder relaxes, now relieved of its carnal burden.
Back at the umbrella I notice that the breeze has gone. Heat waves rise from the taupe landscape like a million silvery fingers snaking heavenward. The air is so humid that it’s tough to catch a good breath. I drink some cold water and curl beneath the stingy shade of our umbrella, while my daughter sunbathes and my husband contently reads.
I want to go home but I don’t want to spoil their fun.
I eye the mountain of accessories we brought with us, dreading the trek back to the car. We’ll have to stay until sundown because there’s no way I’m going to make it to the parking lot in this heat if I have to carry stuff.
Note to self:
Dear Leah, Florida is a very hot place in the summertime. Limit your beach visits to late afternoon and early morning hours when you can stroll the shoreline without fear of death.
My daughter looks over at me and says the magic words, “I’m ready any time you guys are.” I feign boredom, and calmly look to my husband, trying to conceal my wagging tail, and ask, “Are you ready to go?” He smiles and says, “yup.”
We quickly pack up our belongings (plus a kilo of sand) and hike across the beach, which is like walking through scalding oatmeal. My bathing suit bottom is full of sand; chafing and irritating me so badly that I swear I can feel the beginnings of a pearl forming.
As we motor away from the beach I laugh out loud at myself, the crisis now being past, and suggest that we stop at a drive-thru for cold drinks.
The good life has resumed. Lesson learned!