Days at the beach

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.
–Robert Frost

I grew up with a mother that loved the beach… whole afternoons were spent baking under the summer sun, a cooler filled with sandwiches and ice-cold plums. Childhood photo albums are proof that many of our vacations centered around a visit to the shore, as if living within a couple minutes drive didn’t already offer us enough of the ocean’s delights.

My father is mostly absent from these memories… his fair and freckled skin kept him under the beach umbrella or back at home when he wasn’t rescuing me from the breaking waves or my brother’s torments. I don’t remember much beyond the shock of seeing him in shorts, his legs whiter than white, some goofy looking never-worn sneakers, his trademark black dress socks and the huge mole that grew near his left knee. He used to tease that the little fish liked to nibble on it…


Someone, maybe him, or one of my big brothers used to let me ride on their shoulders in the water, out of reach of the sharks and jellyfish that I was so sure would devour me whole.

I spent a couple hours yesterday watching the same stories unfolding for any number of beachgoers… building sandcastles… bodysurfing… eating tuna sandwiches with a fine dusting of beach sand… the heady scent of Coppertone… all reminding me that this love affair with the sun and the water and the sand is in my blood, even though I burn just like my dad always did.

Any beachy memories to share from your own growing up?

7 thoughts on “Days at the beach”

  1. We grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan .. Grand Traverse Bay and the Sleeping Bear dunes. From July 4 to Labor day that is where it all was at! Although when the great winds of November blew then hikes along the shores were spectacular.

  2. Oh, beachy memories–yeah.
    Beaches always mention holiday. Beaches in S. Africa the earliest. One beach outing when I was 10 in California–an overcast day–I got so sunburned, I could NOT sit, or stand, or even lie down without hurting.
    Red heads and beaches=sunburns.

  3. We lived too far inland for beach trips until I was 11. Luckily I had grandparents on Cape Cod, and I have many happy memories of those beaches. Some were deep sand, some had dunes, some were rocky, and one had magical tides that went so far out that my cousins and I could wade out far enough to collect furry, living sand dollars.

    When we moved to Houston, my parents took me and my half-sibs to Galveston (~50 miles south of Houston). What a shock! After years of picturesque Cape Cod beaches, I was appalled by the thin, grayish strip of oil-dotted dreck that passed for a beach. As soon as I was old enough, I begged off Galveston trips. It was too big a disappointment to a gal who grew up playing on real beaches.

  4. I’m living a beachy memory at the moment over at my place. But I love the poem and this post does, in fact, put me in mind of childhood weekends filled with sand castles and ‘big’ waves and hunting for Petosky stones alone the shores of Lake Michigan. To us, that was like one giant cold ocean.

  5. Beach trips were the highlight of my childhood summers. My husband and I continued the tradition for our own children.

    We haven’t been to the beach since we moved back to NC. During my recent illness my husband made reservations for a week at the Outer Banks next fall for the migration at Pea Island Refuge.

  6. I used to visit the beaches in Old Lyme when I was a teenager.They had a mini disco and I can remember dancing to Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer in the evenings.I laugh about that because I don’t really dance and am not much of a fan of disco.-But it had its time.

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