What is it about us that draws the beach crazies to our sides? How do we always end up sitting next to the woman who’s loudly recounting the details of her last yeast infection via cellphone, pausing only to curse at her children for throwing yet another handful of sand at a baby? I’m only slightly exaggerating. I’ve never actually experienced those situations simultaneously but have, on separate occasions, lived through each one. And that’s the truth.
Today when we emerged from the dune grass, I scanned the beach to root out any potential situations. The right side of the beach was sparsely populated, but why? Was it still early enough that it simply hadn’t filled in or was there something funky going on? It was a gamble but it seemed safe enough. There were no cigarette smoking, tattoo covered women hoarsely yelling at their children. There were no obnoxious swearing teenagers, no crotchety seniors and the tide was out. Good enough. We eked out our temporary beach front property and settled in to enjoy the first day of summer.
It took precisely 10 minutes for that kid to show up. You know, That Kid. The kid whose number I immediately had. The kid who was going to annoy everyone for the next two to three hours. The kid who proceeded to stomp on Gwen and Kate’s sand castle, who dumped a bucket full of Joe’s carefully collected hermit crabs and stuck his grubby little hand in the container of watermelon and strawberries I was holding out for my children while his mother sat on her beach towel and watched it all go down. Exactly how many times should one be expected to politely steer someone else’s child away from our food/blanket/lives before his mother intervenes? Finally, Gwen got fed up.
“Who are you anyway?” She fixed her squinted gaze upon the boy whose only response was a hearty itch to the crotch. I watched Gwen’s shoulder’s raise in a question, “Hmm? Who…are…you? Where is your mommy?” Now she was speaking to him as if English might be his second language. “Do you talk? Hey. Hey. Kid. Stop touching my brother’s herman crabs. This is the last time I’m going to ask you nicely.”
Generally speaking, I tend to intervene much earlier if there are signs that a situation is developing. However on occasion, I can’t help but stand back and let Gwen go. Just a little bit. She’s the one child I have that stands up for herself and her siblings. She’s especially protective of her big brother who tends to be passive or respond with frustrated tears. The first evidence of Gwen’s gumption was back in Boston. She was about 16 months old when she noticed the neighborhood terror terrorizing Joe at the park. She toddled over to Diego, a.k.a. the Terror of Hobart Park and, before anyone knew what was happening, she delivered a deft series of slaps to Diego and punctuated each with a stern, “NO! NO! NO!”
Now, as Gwen grabbed the reigns and attempted deal with the kid, his mother finally joined the fray and cast a disapproving look in my direction. As if I should stop Gwen from being frustrated with her child who had now inserted himself into all of her fun and destroyed it with his bad behavior. I ignored her, just as she had ignored us for nearly an hour. She knelt down on our blanket and began asking her son questions like, “How is this making you feel?” I tried to kill the laugh that was building and refrained from snapping back, How about how he’s been making us feel? Why don’t you use this as an opportunity to point out self-awareness and manners, huh lady? And get the hell off our beach blanket!
She finally led him away by asking him if he needed to do the “bathroom dance”. As in, “*Parker, would you like to go to the bathroom and do the bathroom dance?” (*not his real name.)
Joe sidled up to me, all the while casting his trademark, you’re freaking me out so please go away side-eye stare upon the kid. “”Hey, mom…that kid and his mom are going to go dance in the bathroom.”
While they were gone we moved to a new location.
Joe and Gwen were so eager to put some distance between themselves and the kid that they gladly and quickly helped me move the blanket, chairs and toys. Honestly, I’ve never seem them perform in such a focused and efficient manner. “Hurry up, Mom! Before that kid comes back and sees us!”
Freed from our captor, we were able to enjoy a few hours at the beach. Once the children were sufficiently coated in sand and the tide began driving us back toward the dunes, it was time to leave. My salty, sand covered little people and I patiently waited at the showers while all the other mommies attempted to blast the sand out of their children’s cracks and crevices. Finally, our family of four crammed into the outdoor shower and, as I assisted in sand removal from girl parts, I noticed that Joe had pulled his bathing suit down and stuck his rump under the cold shower. “Mom, I think I have a rash on my butt!” His was voice elevated so I’d hear him over the splash of the shower. The mom in line behind me and I made eye contact, suppressed our laughter and shared one of those silent moments where we nearly read one another’s thoughts.
As I helped Kate rinse her body, she screamed at the shock of the cold water spraying her legs. Then she started doing that weird toddler thing where she was suddenly unable to stand. She grasped at my leg, hands searching for a pair of pants to hold onto but I was still wearing my bathing suit. Somehow, probably because I was bent over trying to help Gwen into her sundress, Kate was able to find purchase by grabbing ahold of my bathing suit top. Using my triangle bikini top, Kate was able to save herself from continuing her floppy fall and at the same time, successfully exposed my left breast to the entire line of people waiting for the showers.
And that is just one of the indignities of Summer.