It is the end of July and I’ve already spent several weekends languishing in a beach chair on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. For my family, going to the beach is a summer staple, like slamming the screen door and sipping icy lemonade from a sweating glass.
My earliest memories are of staying at grandparents’ little red cottage on Cable Road in Rye, New Hampshire. I can still close my eyes and smell the scent of Sea and Ski and salt water that lingered inside its walls. I remember how the sun reflected off the cut glass in the bay window and how my mother would douse us with Off! before allowing us to venture out to pick blueberries in the nearby woods. Subsequent summers were spent in a little shanty behind Carberry’s house and then a larger house to accommodate our growing family of growing teenagers. Each cottage holds its own memories of late night card games, smoothing Noxema on sunburns, and surviving the birth and death of summer romances. I hold those memories close to my heart, occasionally taking them out for a brief dusting. I smile at them and put them back where they dwell, not lingering too long, lest I stay locked in the past and forgetting the present.
I loved the cottages, but it is the beach itself that beckons me. Although the landscape and the people have changed, the sea still sparkles in the sun as it curls and froths against the glittering gray sands. Every time I first glimpse the water, my heart leaps as if I have never before seen its splendor. Every time I find an empty patch of sand and settle in my canvas chair, I feel muscles relax that I hadn’t realized were tense. Every time I charge into a crashing wave that is so cold that it sucks away my breath, I emerge euphoric, revitalized, and feeling ten years younger.
No doubt, the beach is my happy place. All are welcome to join me. But there are rules, so just in case you decide to pack your cooler and join me for a lazy afternoon, I thought we should review.
Rules for the Beach
- Everyone on the beach becomes seventeen again.
- Even though everyone is seventeen, participants’ bodies may not look like they did when they actually were seventeen. Therefore, no participant may look at, mention or think about body size, body shape, or body type. There is no noticing of varicose veins, cellulose, bulging, graying or hanging.
- Preferred activities are (in no particular order) body surfing, eating, laughing, playing bocce and wistful day dreaming,
- Participants who do not wish to participate in swimming activities will not be teased, cajoled or embarrassed. *Please note, this rule does not apply to members of the original eight (circa 1951-1963) Madison beach clan.
- All participants must bring “Second Breakfast” and a thermos of coffee to share.
- There are no calories on the beach.
- All meals served on the beach must contain at least one of the following: something savory, something sweet, something crunchy and something refreshing.
- Blankets and swim suits will get sandy. It is a fact of life. Get over it.
- All participants will leave happier and more relaxed than when they arrived.
- Only cares, worries and concerns may be left on the beach. The tide washes them away, so there is no use returning for them.