I barely had time to put away the beach chairs and I am suddenly making soup and wearing slippers. I realize this happens every year, but this recent week of cool weather is more abrupt this year and I am feeling more nostalgic. I think I know why.
We spent last week at the beach in Maine, with kids, significant others and granddaughter. We really had not done this in a long time – and certainly never with our daughter-in- law, little Lo or our daughter’s boyfriend. It had the potential for conflict and I stock-piled some worries in advance. My husband likes the beach in smaller doses (which is why my daughter and I do winter get-aways); how would we handle the endless succession of meals and clean ups when everyone’s response to “what do you want to do for dinner” is typically “whatever”; how would our resident toddler react to sleeping in a different place and the experience of cold (very cold) Maine water or being coated with sand? What about the close quarters and the single bathroom?
Well, everything was better than good. Brian amused himself ably, including a fledging stint as our personal driver back and forth to the beach. The second day in we planned meals for the whole week, and executed the plan with success. The bathroom situation – well, we survived.
What about Lo? She was true to form – good-humored, sociable and ready for anything. But what really stunned me was witnessing her first ocean experience through her eyes. It was worth my litany of unfounded worries. Is it instinct? She ran to the water. Not offended by the temperature (I think it hit 64 degrees) she understood that waves roll in and out; that you can chase them and they can chase you. She understood that stomping on wet sand elicits footprints. That sifting dry sand through your fingers is a worthwhile activity. She met some dogs. She met some other babies. She got sand on the blanket (next year, we will institute the rule against this.) She watched sea gulls and ate sandy snacks.So, sitting here in my long pants and slippers, I am melancholy. Lo will not remember this experience and in too brief a time, she will not be feeding me sandy goldfish and sitting her wet, gritty diapered self on my lap. She won’t be pointing at every dog that passes by. Nor will she be entertaining her whole Bendiks clan with her vacation week new tricks: walking backwards, walking sideways and carrying Uno cards hands free, tucked beneath her chin.
I have been trying hard to remember my own first beach experiences. I can’t go further back than age 5 or 6. We lived in Falmouth on Cape Cod twice while growing up. In these innocent times, my parents perfected their tans and only needed to tend to us occasionally with the 1960’s version of sunscreen “put on a t-shirt!” or an offer of a paper cup of Kool-Aid and a fluffernutter sandwich. It was a blissful freedom. We collected hermit crabs and built elaborate cities for them. I liked to lay very still in the wet sand- feet to the water and head towards the dry sand – and wait for the tide to inch from low to high, incrementally washing over a larger swath of my prone shape. We collected the prized jewels of sea glass and fishermen’s toenails. At the end of the day, we loaded into the station wagon, sandy and salty, browned and tight-skinned, tired and happy.As the summer of 2017 turns to fall, I am wistful of all that passed into a history only I remember. Time goes on, waves rush in and out. It the natural order, of course. And it reminds me to acknowledge my blessings and plan another week at the beach.