Around these parts, summer doesn’t officially start until our first family beach day.
I wrote last year about how we had to wait out a week of subtropical rain storms before we could kick off our summer. This year, there were no such weather delays.
All we had to wait for was our first activity-free day. To maintain our sanity (mostly mine), I’ve ramped up our summer activity calendar. Some down time is nice, but too much leaves me unmotivated and cranky. Not to mention, my kids tend to morph into little yappy, fighty chihuahuas when they spend too much unstructured time together. So, long story short, my older two kids have tennis camp four mornings per week.
On Friday, our first full day off, we spent an hour or two loading up the car and headed out on our one-hour journey to the sea.
Once again, when we arrived at the national seashore that we typically frequent, we decided to eschew the nude beach for the clothed beach. I’ve never ventured to the clothing optional portion, but it’s nice to know it’s an option.
To be clear, it’s not an option. At all. Even if I didn’t have kids with me. I’m hesitant to take my shirt off at the beach let alone anything else. I prefer no one sees my ribs or becomes blinded by my almost translucent skin.
After we parked, we schlepped our random assortment of beach paraphernalia—a small cooler, some borrowed sand toys and boogie boards, the Sorcerer’s Stone—across the boardwalk to the beach.
Once on the beach, we didn’t waste any time. We got right down to doing what you’re supposed to do at the beach. Digging in the sand, frolicking in the water, avoiding the sun, standing around letting the ocean wash over your feet thinking about just how pronounced the wrinkles around your eyes are as you squint against the salty breeze half hoping a crab will nibble your toes so you might feel something.
After the kids ran around like crazy people for a half hour or so, chasing the water as it tumbled in and retreated, we broke out the boogie boards. My oldest has finally reached the age where he can maneuver it a little. He waded out twenty feet or so and inched his way back with the help of some small, choppy waves.
Of course, with the boogie boarding action heating up, it was only a matter of time before the waves called to me. Like Moana being called to take up a paddle and ride the sea on an ancient canoe, I was called to sheepishly shed my shirt, grab a children’s boogie board, and stumble a few paces out into the ocean in search of glory.
Immediately, I flashed back to my younger years when I used to get gnarly on the regular.
It took me a while to get back in my groove, but I slowly started to find it. But then things took a turn for the worse.
I launched too soon while trying to catch a wave and got caught in the break. The wave thundered down on top of me, tossing me about under the water like a rag doll. I let loose of the board and rolled to the bottom, scraping along the rough sand before I could get my feet under me.
I gathered my strength, pushed to the surface, and took a deep breath to collect myself. The foamy water swirled around my ankles, splattering up to tickle my knees when another violent wave ripped through.
What a rush.
Boogie boarding twelve feet from the shore is not for the faint of heart.
But this beach trip wasn’t really about shredding the waves. Our first summer beach day has become an annual ritual. And like most annual rituals, it’s an easy way mark the passage of time.
Last year, my youngest, now three, would hardly go to the beach and if she did, she hated it. She hated the sun and the sand and the wind and the water. All of it. I could certainly relate. But this year, she loved every second of it. She was right there with the boys digging in the sand and chasing the surf. She is bigger and bolder this year.
Similarly, the boys can now handle boogie boards and are more adventurous straying from the shore. The oldest in particular has the hang of riding the little waves. What can I say? He shares his father’s gift.
I’m sure we’ll be back to the beach this summer (hopefully not too many times), but this first trip is always special.
It’s a day to reflect and remember.
It’s a day to see how much we’ve grown.
It’s day to get gnarly like in my roaring youth.
It’s a day when anything seems possible.
Well, anything except getting the sand out of our car. That’s impossible.