Come To The Water Like A Child

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We went to the beach with my bad cousins.

This was the time directly after the infamous Once Upon A Potty Smiting of which I’ve already written. My cousins were still impulsive and “too worldly;” we were still repressed, but that made us all the more impulsive when we had impulsive company. Their parents and mine, along with my grandmother, all split the cost of renting a cottage on Pawley’s Island for a week.

We lived in land-locked Ohio. “Going to the beach” usually meant going to swat mayflies on the shore of Lake Erie. An actual beach, on the ocean, was an unspeakable treat. We looked forward to it for months. We drove down from Ohio to South Carolina in the cramped little mini van; it took two days to get to the cousins’ house, then another day to drive to Pawley’s Island.

The moment we got out of the van, all of us children clamored to go to the beach right away.

The grown-ups explained that we couldn’t. We hadn’t unpacked the cars yet; they didn’t even know where our swim suits were. We were to play quietly in the beach house and stay out of trouble while our parents had a rest, and began the slow process of unpacking.

We were horrified. We’d waited months, then three days of driving, for a trip to the beach. We weren’t going to wait hours or what seemed like hours for some slowpoke grownups. They’d probably insist on having coffee, the world’s most unbearable grown-up time-wasting beverage– a bitter, scalding drink that had to be brewed for what seemed like a thousand years in a noisy percolator, then sipped daintily, barely wetting the lips, while they chatted and gossiped about us, all before they were willing to start the process that would lead to finding our swim suits. None of us could wait for that.

My father was merciful. He offered to “walk us down to look at the water,” while the other parents started coffee; after we’d admired it, we could wait to put our suits on and go back to the beach for a dip. My father’s parents had a  house in Naples, near the beach– every year of his childhood, he’d gone to stay by the ocean. It was a perfectly normal thing for him to “walk down to look at the water.” He assumed that a pack of cooped up children, half of whom had barely ever seen the ocean, would “walk down to look at the water” with him, without any trouble at all.

We went with him. All ten or eleven of us, fully clothed with shoes and socks on. I was still in the long pants I’d packed in chilly Ohio; my cousins were in brand new summer outfits my aunt had bought for the trip. We “walked down to look at the water.”

We looked at it.

Next thing my father knew, we were in it.

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