Flotsam and Jetsam
Whenever I tell new people I meet that I live in Jamestown, they always make one of two assumptions about me. The first is that I must go to the beach "all the time" and the second is that I must sail. "Oh, isn't that great," they say, followed by "how close are you to the beach?" I reply honestly that I am less than half a mile away. "I can even walk there," I tell them.
Funny thing is that I haven't been to the beach in years and I don't sail either.
I started thinking about this phenomenon recently while getting my hair cut. After 15 years with the same hairdresser, she moved to San Diego and left me and countless others looking for somebody new to trust with our tresses. I found a new young woman, with kids, who inquired about my living situation and then immediately asked me the usual questions about the beach.
I'm not sure why, but when she asked, I answered honestly and said that not only had I not been to the beach this year, I never go to the beach.
"In fact," I said thinking out loud, "the last time I went to the beach was when my kids were in junior high." Since they are both in their early 20s now, that would mean I have not been to the beach in the 21st century.
When the kids were young, it was fun to watch them collect hermit crabs and shells in buckets, and rub sand off their cute little feet. I enjoyed helping them make castles—topping each one with turrets decorated with perfectly matched stones. Digging holes until they naturally filled up with water to make a tiny pool was fun, too. I liked sitting in a low chair, digging my feet into the hot sand and wiggling my toes.
I didn't like the water. It's always too cold.
Salt water burns my eyes and makes me itch. Sand gets stuck in inconvenient places and needs to be washed off upon returning home. Once you bring them to the beach, towels are never the same. The sun is too bright. With the strong breeze, most of my umbrellas spent more time flying away than they did staying put and protecting me from the sun.
I don't like seaweed either—it smells funky.
And bathing suits! I've always hated clothes that cling to my body and bathing suits are the worst culprit.
All that said, over the years I've had plenty of fun at the beach. I've even been lucky enough to have dipped my toes into the waters of far-flung beaches on the Mediterranean, the Ionian, the North and the Caribbean seas in addition to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Gulf of Mexico and the English Channel too!
Unfortunately, the beach has lost its allure and all my beach-going memories are in my past.
Once, some years ago, we played a bit of a trick on my oldest daughter. She was about 10 at the time and had drifted off for a cat nap on her towel. The rest of us were snacking on potato chips and our every move was watched by a nearby seagull. We threw a chip out to coax the gull closer and when he went for it we put another one on my sleeping daughter's upturned bum. We have a great photo of her jumping up wide eyed with a seagull standing on her butt.
When I first started dating my husband, we went to Mackerel Cove one hot summer day and while I was dozing on the blanket he was in the water taking a swim. I should mention that my husband is quite hairy. After a while a large, wet hairy body laid down on the blanket next to me. A couple of minutes later, I heard my husband laughing at some distance. I looked to my immediate left to find that I was practically holding hands with a huge wet dog, who was happily sharing my spread.
Another time, while we were dating, we went to a secluded stretch of beach that is along the west side of the island between the Jamestown Bridge and the Great Creek. We had a picnic lunch and took a nap on our blanket. When we woke up we were surrounded by cows—about 10 of them—who were sniffing over us and wondering why we smelled like roast beef sandwiches.
It's the end of the summer so the likelihood of my going to the beach this year is pretty small. Why break a streak?
Now fall is coming—my favorite season—and I will take long walks with my dog, enjoy the cool, crisp air and the bluest skies of the year. When I pass the beach I will think about my kids when they were little—all the castles, the sandy feet, and the many shellfish who gave their lives to be brought home in a bucket.