My sisters and I would play in the sand for hours, building sand castles with moats that went all around the connected castles and would eventually empty out into the ocean, the same ocean that would also fill the moats. I remember building underwater tunnels and the thrill we would get when the water poured through without collapsing our castle. Then we would go splashing into the water, riding the waves, laughing at each other when the undertow would occasionally take one of us down. I can remember coming back up from one such takedown only to have another wave immediately take me back under while I was trying to get my hair out of my face, get the seaweed off of my body and to get the horrible taste of saltwater out of my mouth and eyes. I remember stumbling blindly to the beach blanket to grab my towel and wipe my face, only then realizing that my towel was full of sand, and I was only making it worse.
Then I became a teenager, and I loved going to the beach with my friends. These were the easiest trips. Teenage girls throw on their bikinis, put a pair of shorts over them and don a pair of flip flops and sunglasses. As long as we had baby oil or some low SPF suntan oil (always oil, never lotion), Doritos and Cokes we were ready. Towels and beach blankets were optional as we spent most of our time cruising the strip, either in the car, on foot, or on the backs of motorcycles. We bought tie-dye half shirts and short shorts, took goofy pictures of ourselves and got fake tattoos. If we got hungry we grabbed a slice of pizza or fried dough. We were there to soak up the sun as we walked around looking cool. We were there to get tan, to shop and to meet boys. Those were fun trips!
I would exit the car and try to load as much as I could in the bottom of the stroller and the rest on the top of the stroller.
I would push the overloaded stroller to the beach entrance and then frantically struggle to push it through the sand until finally I would just pick it up and carry it to an area close enough to the water to watch my toddler play but where I could actually push the stroller on the wetter packed down sand. Then I would unpack everything, apply sunblock to my baby, position the umbrella and spend the next few hours ensuring that the sun didn't shine on him but that it did shine on me while we were only inches apart from each other. We would make the trek from beach blanket to the water with little toddler steps and then kick the water and jump and laugh as the waves splashed on our feet and ankles. We would build sand castles and we would eat cut-up fruit and drink from juice boxes. As this adorable little toddler grew into a young boy around the age of 4 or 5, I remember one beach day where my sister Terry and I were lying on the blankets soaking up the sun while little Jake played next to us in the sand. As I was drifting off to dreamland in the sun with the sound of waves crashing, I thought I heard a voice, a little voice saying, "Excuse me, excuse me." I didn't recognize the voice and as the words spoken didn't include the word "Mommy" I didn't pay much attention. Then the voice got louder. "Excuse me, excuse me, lady. You have a wedgie." I now recognized the voice to be that of my boy. As I rolled over and sat up, I noticed him standing and pointing at a lovely young lady walking along the edge of the water and wearing a pretty red thong. To a 4 year old boy, she most definitely appeared to have a wedgie. His public service announcement continued, despite my pleas for him to stop and my insistence that she knew she had a wedgie, only to hear back, rather loudly, "Why would anyone want a wedgie? Why isn't she picking it?" Yes, it was a fun day at the beach, but I did smile as that poor young lady ran off to probably put some shorts on.
Now I have 3 children. The wedgie patrolman is now 20 and probably seeks out women wearing those particular bathing suits. My other two are 11 and 9. No one likes to go to the beach, at least not with me. They will go with friends and make a day of it, but when I suggest going, someone always says "not today".
Well, this weekend we are going. I am going to make sandwiches designed to taste good even when mixed with particles of sand. I will pack cookies and chips and fruit and waters and sodas and juice boxes. I will pack varying degrees of sunblock - 30 for them and 15 for me, I've gotten a little bit better. I will dig out the beach blanket and the sand toys and the beach towels. As we search for parking, I will unroll the windows so I can smell the saltwater and hear the crashing waves. I will scan the crowds of people, remembering earlier days of hanging with the girls. I will search for that little hole in the wall that sold the best fried dough. I will drag the kids and all of our gear through the hot sand until we find the perfect place to put it all down - right next to the large woman in the small bikini - hey, I don't look as good in my suit as I used to, and I need to make myself feel better. Call it conceit, I call it careful planning. I will ride the waves with the kids, we will kick and splash in the waves. I will hold hands with my kids and run in the water. I will eat sandy sandwiches and junk food. I will lie on the beach blanket and try to get a tan while reading my romance novel. I will watch the clock so I know when to turn over so that my sunburn is even on all sides. When it's time to go I will help the kids wash off their feet so they don't have to be all sandy and uncomfortable on the ride home. And then I will make the drive home. They will sleep, I will turn the radio up a little louder, and I will smile because we just made a memory.