Monday, June 14, 2010
If it was up to me I probably would never take time to spend a day at the beach: the sand, the people, the parking (or lack of), the stickiness, etc., is not my idea of fun. However, to kids the pull of the beach is unlike any other. So several times a summer I find myself throwing a few things in the car, packing up the kids and their friends and heading out for what I hope will be a half day event. Yet when I get there I find something magical happening, not only do I get immense joy watching them, but it also reminds me of the circularity of life as the memories of my childhood come rushing back.
Hence, this week we made the first of such a journey this summer. As we arrived at the water my ten year old son, Keaton, dug up the first sand crab of day to scare his teenage brother's friend, Wilson. Wilson having never seen a sand crab before (poor only child syndrome) is fascinated and a long discussion incurs as to which end is the mouth and which the tail. Being teenagers a contest ensures as to who can catch the most sand crabs. As I am asked to judge the winner by sticking my hand into several squirming buckets of crabs, I am suddenly transported to being ten myself. To the wonder of seeing a bubble on the wet moist sand, scooping a handful up and feeling the crab as it transcends through the sand to reach my hand, and the tickle it creates as it tries to go further through my fingers.
As Keaton and his friend Jacob body surf in the low waves they slowly make their way farther and farther from my view. As the distance increases so does my anxiety. When I shout to get their attention the waves drown me out and again my anxiety increases even further. I get up and trying to appear nonchalant so as not to look like a crazy mother I hurry in their direction. With a voice more shrill then I had wanted I admonish them of the dangers of getting too far from me. They give that "what is she so worried about" look, and comply. When I have time to analyze my feelings I remember similar episodes with my own mother. As I got older I always attributed it to the fact that she could not swim and therefor had a great fear of us drowning and that she would not be able to help. But now I realize it is more than that, it is a mothers internal radar a knowledge that she must protect her offspring at all costs.
As the day progresses I see the different stages of the beach come to life. My youngest is still all about the water, only coming out to eat, drink, or use the restroom. He cannot think of anything better then staying in the waves all day. My oldest at seventeen however has a different agenda, the beach is a good place to both get in shape and get a tan. His day is spent taking a run on the challenging sand, playing football and soccer with his friends, flexing for all the girls who walk by, and sunbathing (or should I say sunburning) on the hot sand. I am the last stage; under an umbrella with a towel over my feet that protrude into the suns path. I am there to caretake, observe and enjoy.
Before I know it the sun has begun to dip and I realize I had gone far over my half-day excursion. But I am not upset, because I have really enjoyed the outing and the time that I have been able to spend with my boys. As we pack up and turn to leave Keaton calls from the waves, "Mom, I just want to go faaaaaaarrrrrrr out there once." Even though my stomach clenches at the thought I realize that I must let him take chances so that he might learn from them, I nod in agreement and watch as he swims past the smaller waves and ducks under a few bigger ones, and then turns to ride in a much large wave then usual. As I see his silhouette against the white water I am reminded of my own childhood. How my godfather would take my twin sister and I past the waves my mom was comfortable with us going. He would hold our hands tightly within his own as the waves crashed down upon us. At times we rolled and somersaulted and had trouble catching our breath, but o' what fun we had. As Keaton pops his head above the water, my heart comes back to my chest, and my face is a mirror of his, which is filled with wonder and joy for all that he has accomplished; a life moment.
The last stop at the beach is always the showers. We have tried to make it home without them but sand, salt water, and sunburns are not good traveling companions. As I help the youngest erradicate the beach from their bodies I tell them about my own experiences. At my godparents beach house in Lagunita a door on the outside of the house led directly into a aqua blue tiled shower. It was always our first stop and after my mother had scrubbed us of the cups of sand that encrusted our bodies and had become trapped in bathing suits we would exit another more traditional shower door directly into the bathroom.
That night, our bellies full of In-n-Out, our skin roasted like an overcooked chicken, our bodies exhausted in a way that only a day at the beach brings, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of contentment that I have created memories that my children will bring to theirs. Then Keaton, who has fallen asleep on the couch, moves and groans and I realize he is reliving the waves as they flow into the beach and flow back to the ocean.........I too remember falling asleep to this feeling as a child and I curl up next to him and fall asleep reliving the days I have spent at the beach also.
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- Karen Rothfus
- Alta Loma, California, United States
- I am a wife of 28 years to Kevin, a pilot, a mother of 22 year old Kellan and 15 year old Keaton. I am caretaker to a zoo of animals including dogs, cats, chickens, fish, birds, turtles, etc. I am a gardener, a cook, a writer, a painter, a teacher, and I am truly blessed to be able to live life the way I wish too.