Summer solstice, three weeks into June, marks the official arrival of the season, but for many Memorial Day is the psychological kick-off to summer. The last day of school is the solstice for kids. Never mind the length of the days…it’s the months of freedom that really count.
Different story for the parents: By the end of that first week of vacation they’re ready for school to resume because summer solace is all that matters. Huge difference there: when school’s out, kids run for the surf. The parents? We run for sanctuary.
Yes, summertime was heaven as a kid, with the beach providing the great escape. Burgers, dogs, club sandwiches, and going swimming a mere half hour after eating and not worrying about cramps – those were carefree times.
I mean as kids, what did we care? Sand in the car? Dad’ll clean it out. Sunburn? Mom will apply the Solarcaine. Re-runs on TV? Well, you can’t have it all.
A favorite pastime was body surfing on cheap Styrofoam boards, even though they would snap in half within the first fifteen minutes. Not to be defeated even after we were ordered out of the water because of our prune like hands and blue lips, we’d proceed to play Hide ‘n Go Seek – running and shouting with reckless abandon.
Then, scolded for making too much of a racket, we’d head off to find tamer entertainment. We’d play the latest Beatles or Stones records on the jukebox, ignoring the stares of the older generation who found the sounds strange and annoyingly revolutionary.
Kicked out of the bar area, which really was just for the adults, I would retreat to my position back on the beach. Trying to appease the adults by sitting quietly in a lounge chair was pure torture and I vowed I’d never ever grow up to be like those stiffs who wouldn’t let kids be kids.
As a young man, the beach meant prowling and posing in the hope of impressing a young woman. Failing that, a bounding run and headlong dive into the waves was sure to draw attention.
One memorable moment occurred when I emerged from the ocean with chest puffed out after doing a header into the pounding surf. I pretended not to notice if people were impressed by my stunt but my ego swelled as I caught a glimpse of two beach beauties pointing at me and smiling.
I sauntered over (full of bravado) to chat them up, but before I said a word one of them pointed to my head.
“Nice seaweed cap you’re wearing.”
I retreated with slumped shoulders back to my lonely lounge chair plucking seaweed from my hair, trailed by the sounds of the giggling girls.
Other than trying to impress the girls, crab bakes, barbeques, and hanging out by the campfire filled our carefree summer days. An occasional midnight swim in the ocean was thrilling … until Jaws came out. The image of becoming shark bait killed that fun, confining us to the safety of the beach and cursing that damned movie.
For us adults, bathing suit and bikini season can be a source of stress in itself. Sucking in the chest while talking to friends and finally breathing when home…that takes a lot of effort. No wonder we need to take naps after going to the beach. Going to the beach as an adult is work.
The feeling of sand in my shorts makes me crotchety, and no longer a kind reminder of days gone by. Mix in the sand with the suntan lotion and it’s a recipe for rashes.
No, I prefer the peacefulness of listening to smooth jazz, of eating food that has little grains of seasoning instead of sand, and not worrying about getting eaten by sharks, bit by horseflies, or having to suck in my belly every time I get up from a chaise.
To top it off, there’s all these annoying kids running around like they’ve just been let out of prison. It’s not too long after I go to the beach these days that I feel the need for solice in my own sanctuary.
It’s sad that for this middle-aged man’s enjoyment at the beach, the tide has definitely turned.