I remember spending every day at the beach as a kid. We got there early to get a parking spot and our usual beach spot—up against the granite wall for shade in the afternoon, right under the Scout Hall—and stayed until late afternoon. I remember on really hot days staying for dinner, walking across the street to Jimmy’s for steamed hot dogs and maybe a treat of frozen candy bar or sticky, sweet Swedish fish.
I remember squeezing six kids and two moms in the car, spreading a towel across the seats so we wouldn’t burn our legs in the afternoon. We argued about window seats and being squished. We cranked down the windows and sang—Air Supply and Barry Manilow, chorus songs and Girl Scout songs—whether or not the radio worked. We peeled off each other when we got home and raced to be the first to rinse off with the sun-warmed hose.
I remember the introduction of sunscreen instead of suntan lotion and the high SPF of 8. I remember cotton t-shirts wet and heavy and towels spread over the backs of our legs when we were lying down to eat lunch. I remember painful red sunburns and itching and peeling and the medicinal smell of Solarcaine.
I remember tuna sandwiches packed in the orange topped Lil’ Oscar getting gritty with sand, washed down with fruit punch in paper cups doled out of the spouted red drink cooler. I remember waiting half an hour after eating before going in the water. I remember reading or my mom reading to me during that wait, my towel pulled up close to her chair.
I remember racing into the bone-achingly cold water, diving under, surfacing. I remember somersault contests in the water and floating on my back rocked gently by the waves. I remember playing truth or dare in the hot, dry sand, and making dribble castles in the soft, wet sand. I remember trying to “beat the waves” with my cousins using driftwood and rocks and kelp to strengthen our sand castles against the incoming tide.
I’ve taught my kids about dribble castles and still dive into the water quickly. They still eat sandy lunches, though their drinks come out of pouches. We arrive in our own car with them buckled into car seat and slathered with sunscreen. We don’t arrive in a gaggle of six kids but soon they are with one, for usually their cousins are there and maybe my cousins’ kids.
I didn’t know how lucky I was growing up at the beach every day, living with the sound and the smell of the sea seeping into me. For my kids, it’s a novelty, something to look forward to, a vacation. They love it, perhaps, as much as I do, but I wonder if in the same way. The beach was in some way, home, a place I knew well, where I spent a lot of time, where my mom made even the waiting a special time. And the ocean got under my skin, into my blood—the heavy but invigorating salt air, the crash and hiss of the waves, the constancy and changingness. I love were we live now, but I miss the ocean, and in the summer, I long to give my kids the beach as an everyday experience. Or maybe I just long for the days when I could run in and out of the water or laze around or complain about being bored while somebody else handed out lunches and spread the towels and read me stories.
Write with Me:
Start your own list beginning I remember. Your list can be related or random. If one idea demands to be explored, follow it. Take 10–15 minutes, and see what you remember. Use this as a warm up or keep your list around for later inspiration.
- Share in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear what you came up with.
- Read the list to your kids (if appropriate)—mine love hearing stories about me as a kid.
- Send your list to somebody who shared in your memories.
If you had fun with this, you might want to download Summer Stories in Five Minutes.