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Surviving the Shore

Lucy remembers family vacations at the shore.

It’s officially summer, and we’ve had a heat wave to prove it. Thoughts of vacation and going to the shore are on many peoples’ minds. Me? I’m not known for enjoying outdoor activities. In fact, I’ve always said that my favorite outdoor activity is coming back inside. Age has only deepened that sentiment.

That being said, I just love the ocean. I’ll stand there, admiring it for several, long seconds, then go back to shopping on the boardwalk.

As I’m sure you’ve gleaned, I don’t venture out on the beach all that often. The exception to that are random early morning walks on the shore collecting sea shells. And if I want to splash around in water, there’s always the condo’s pool. I visit that once every five years or so. I’ve even been known to sit at the edge and dangle my legs into the water. Then, as soon as people start jumping in, I turn into the Great White Flash – my milky white, glow-in-the-dark limbs beat a hasty retreat into the safety of my air-conditioned fortress called the condo.

A small part of me would like to get in, but no matter how “water resistant” your mascara claims to be, it’s not. One good splash in the eye sends it running down your face, taking with it your so-called waterproof foundation. Small children have been known to run for the safety of their mothers’ arms after seeing me with black streaks running down my Casper white face. Goth has nothing on me.

Baking like a loaf of bread in the sun has no appeal to me either. My avoidance of that particular activity has ensured my ability to be invisible in the middle of a snow storm. Sun bathing is doable (if there is absolutely no other available activity and the TV is void of watchable programs) beside the pool, but on the sand? I’d rather hand Bibles out wearing a bikini, sporting a bouffant hairdo with enough makeup on to make a drag queen proud – in Afghanistan.

I’ve read article after article about surviving the beach with a smile (as if). While I’ll concede that there’s a possibility that such an enjoyable beach side experience exists, my guess is that children are not involved in said experience. Any mom will tell you, a walk to the shore with even one child is like traveling the Road to Perdition. Nothing good can come of it.

To begin with, we have to gather supplies and put them in a large tote. Then there’s the ice chest for the water and snacks, beach chairs, toys, radios, and pop up tents. The beach towels that don’t fit into the tote are worn across our shoulders, sometimes five towels deep (because you always have to have extra).

I’ve always thought that parents are the camels of the beach.

Of course, every year, there’s some new product that’s guaranteed to keep sand out of your water bottle. While it may keep it out of the bottle itself, there has yet to be a bottle that can slough off the sand from the outside. Even if you think you’ve wiped it down, open the cap. A breeze carrying a vat of sand hits you square in the face and lands in your water.

Remember that calm, gentle ocean breeze that you were enjoying in the morning? Now that you’re on the beach trying to get a blanket to lie flat, it has become a hurricane-force gust of wind. While you try to place the blanket on the sand, it keeps blowing back into your face. I’ve often employed a kind of throw and lunge. Basically, I toss it to the ground then jump on top, face first, my arms and legs splayed out to keep it in place. Finally, after 15 minutes or so, you get the blanket on the beach, anchored on all four corners with your beach paraphernalia.

And that’s when one of the kids plops themselves down on it, spewing salt water and sand over every inch of blanket. You might as well have used the blanket for something useful, like a magic carpet to ride back to the safety of your condo.

But that’s only the beginning of your day. With kids, parents don’t relax. We watch our children like hawks. We’re afraid they’ll venture out too far or they’ll get stung by a jellyfish. And when the waves hold no more allure, we’re breaking out sand castle supplies, stumbling over other parents while we chase kites and throw Frisbees. I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one to visit Shore Memorial Hospital after taking a Frisbee to the nose.

Of course, it’s not over until you’ve hosed the sand off them. Even if there’s an outdoor shower, kids have sand stashed all over their little bodies. A trip to the bath turns the tub into a sandbox.

The funny thing is, now that I’m older and the kids are teens, I look back on those days – longingly. What the heck happened?

On the one hand, it was a nightmare, and to call it a vacation is like saying that the weather in the Arctic Circle is balmy.

But on the other hand, the joy of watching your little ones play in the waves, seeing their faces light up as they find an intact star fish (or even a busted one) is a reminder that life is made up of the little things. Picking out a new hermit crab and trying to find a name that all the kids will like (in our case, they came up with the very clever “Henry”) is a piece of history you’ll treasure.

We get a second chance to experience the wonder of the world around us through our kids. The memories of the sand castles you built together, the sunsets you watched, the kites you flew, and the massive quantities of greasy food you consumed will one day become precious memories - for you and your babies.

Me? I’m looking forward to my third chance to experience the wonder of the world around me, seeing it through the eyes of my grand babies. Life is good.

"Like" The Brunette Lucy on Facebook.

Ann D. June 25, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Wow good story, just tugged at my heart strings. I too am enjoying it through my grand children. As a matter of fact I rented a house for a week and they are going to spend at least 4 days with me, that will be a fun an memorable vacation :-)
Tamara Kells June 25, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Thank you, everyone! I was worried about this article, since my best friend is a beach junkie. Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to drop a note - it means a LOT!
Heidi June 26, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Thanks for your article and for making me laugh this morning! I, too, am not a beach friendly person and am able to appreciate your loathing of sand and the stress of bringing the kids out for a day at the beach. Having grown up in the Midwest, I do not have any nostalgic memories of the Jersey shore as many people in this area do, but I am happy that my daugher can form her own memories "down the shore" with her grandparents when THEY take her. Thanks for bravely sharing your opinion with which I concur! :)
linda spreeman July 08, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I liked your article and it made me laugh even though I am a beach bumb and LOVE the beach. Sitting at the edge of the ocean with the waves and a good book leave me content for hours on end. I have done this since forever. The only difference in my "old age" is that instead of being doused in baby oil (a la 70's) I don't even venture onto the beach without a minimum of SPF 15. Wonderful memories of building sandcastles/jumping waves with my children has evolved into building sandcastles/jumping waves with my grandchildren. I did enjoy your article though, it reminds me how everyone enjoys different facets of the Jersey Shore. <Linda Spreeman, King of Prussia>
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