By Sarah L. Hunter
July 7, 2021
It was a good plan, I swear. What could go wrong with a day at the beach? Memories of my childhood summers drifted through my thoughts. My mother would pack the large, dented orange cooler with ham sandwiches and juice boxes. The station wagon would be loaded with what seemed like a week’s worth of food and disappointing inflatable beach toys. The ride to the beach would be quiet; my sister and I would still be half asleep! After lucking into a parking spot (“I told you we should have left earlier,” my mother would chide my dad), we would awkwardly drag the cooler across the burning hot sand. The red calico beach blanket would be unfurled, and the faded beach umbrella would be opened with a satisfying chhhhh-fwump.
The day would drift by lazily, with my parents sunbathing, and my sister and I running around the beach like crazed monkeys. Eventually, my mother would walk into the water and start breast-stroking slowly across the lake in a straight line. I would watch her until she disappeared – where was she going? Europe? Hours would pass (it was only thirty minutes, but time moves slowly when you’re a kid) until my mother leisurely swam back to the beach, where she would sit on the blanket until it was time to leave. My family would end the day sunburnt (always sunburnt! Where was the sunscreen? Hadn’t it been invented yet?), happy, and tired.
With those cheerful thoughts in mind, I packed the kids and the dog into the van for a day trip to the beach. It’s only a five minute drive from our house, so I figured we could make a quick getaway if things went awry. The sky was blue and cloudless, the kids were slathered in sunscreen, and the beach was deserted. We made our way down to the sand; Molly was carrying a bucket of toys, and I brought up the rear holding Andy and the dog on his leash. Things were going well! The kids were shrieking and laughing, scooping sand into piles, and racing up and down the beach. I winced when Andy plopped down into a swampy puddle, instantly soaking his shorts; I could only chuckle as his diaper swelled up like a basketball and he waddled away awkwardly. (Note to self: put swim diapers on Andy when water is involved. He will always find it and sit in it).
My troubles began when I walked a few feet away to look at seashells. Unfortunately, the sand below me was much more viscous than I thought, and each step caused me to sink up to my shins. Not wanting to alarm the kids (had anyone ever drowned in quicksand on this beach?) I silently struggled, yanking my thighs up with both hands. This, of course, dislodged my cheap dollar-store sandals, so I plunged my arms into the muck and found them by feel. Walking back towards the kids, with all four limbs slathered in dark brown sand, I stepped on a razor sharp clam shell and sliced my toe open. While removing the shell from my now bleeding toe, I cut my finger open on a barnacle-covered rock. Like some creature from the Black Lagoon that just wouldn’t die, I lurched towards my kids — filthy, exhausted, and bleeding in several places.
“Okay kids, time to go!” I chirped brightly, washing my open wounds in the ocean (salt water is a disinfectant, right?). Amid a chorus of whining, I gathered the dog’s leash, the toys, and the offspring and limped steadily towards the van. Molly was chattering excitedly, the dog was panting happily, and Andy was babbling merrily. It had been a great trip! As I loaded up the van, I realized that somewhere between the beach and the parking lot Andy had lost a shoe. Tired and injured, I decided that the loss of one shoe was a price I was willing to pay. We drove away from the beach, full of new memories of laughter and sunshine. The only cost? A little bloodshed and one toddler’s shoe! For my sand-covered kids, the day had been perfect.
1) We start things off 'right' by having Sarah's mother getting slagged for being a scold and taking her sweet time swimming.
2) She should have thought of swim diapers in the first place but didn't because reasons.
3) The last sentence has a phantom twin: "But for me, it was sheer Hell."