Well, it's that time again, when school is out and summer vacation begins. Time to take Sunnybuns off to the ocean for a week and pray that I don't have to put on a bathing suit and get into the human toilet that is the ocean. Ick. All those people standing in waist deep water staring off at the horizon are not admiring the clouds, trust me. If they're getting in touch with nature, it’s because nature is calling.
After sitting on the sand for an hour in my Wal-Mart pajama pants and T-shirt, I realize that my long days of sitting in my little cubbyhole of an office at home have not done me justice. The sun has left me with little rubberband stings in certain places on my lilywhite arms and it calls to mind trips to the beach with mom and pop when I was a kid. I used to scour Jekyll Island for shade, not for shells.
“Where’s Ellie?” Pop would holler when doling out the smushed up pb&j sandwiches.
Six other arms would point to the low scraggly bush that I had draped a towel over and climbed under.
He would obligingly walk up the dune, trying to balance the purple and brown stained bread along with a tiny Dixie cup of grape Kool-Aid and hand it thru the prickly branches to my itchy miserable body.
“Geddinthewaddah,” he would recommend.
“I think I’d rather eat a bucket of sand,” I would respond, turning the sandwich around to note all the sand that had attached itself to the bread.
“We’ll be leavin’ soon...”, he would promise, not being a fan of the beach himself. It was my mother who thought we needed to make that long hot drive in the air conditionless station wagon. She was always excited about going to the beach. It gave her an opportunity to ply us with her culinary treats of Ritz crackers with peanut butter, the pb&j sandwiches, and the lukewarm Kool-Aid in the jug that held about six cups of liquid for a family of nine. And back then, once in a while, she brought along a bag of Bugles or Fritos.
I would pull the towel back and squint at Pop, asking, “Why wait?”
I was a pretty brazen 10-year-old.
He’d look down at the sand, his clip-on sunglasses flipped up, hands on scrawny hips, “Ya mutha hasn’t finished makin’ us all miserable, that’s why,” and he’d trudge back down to where the rest of my miserably white siblings were standing, casting lots to see who’d get the last quarter of a sandwich.
I wasn’t quite as bad off as my younger brother, who would stay fully clothed the whole time. He’d had the unfortunate experience a few years earlier of having a jellyfish or some kind of evil water creature wrap itself around his little white legs and sting the holy bejeezus out of him. That pretty well terrified the rest of us too, but we would still go knee deep in water, and not much further than that.
Mom would get in that water, her rubber swimming cap pulled snugly over her head, and head out like an Olympic champion. The rest of us would huddle around Pop, feeling like a bunch of Sad Sacks, sunburned, sand in every crevice, and hating the two hours we had to endure the hottest time of the day.
If we were lucky, we’d get there early enough to squeeze onto one of the cement picnic tables scattered about the area, although none were in the shade. Nothing like sitting on a big ol’ slab of concrete with tiny crunched up shells and sand in your crack.
Sister says she remembers how much fun it was splashing in the water, squishing the silty sea bottom between her toes, getting buried in the sand and praying not to get drowned by the incoming tide.
Oh yeah, that’s right. We always thought she was adopted anyway ... that must’ve been the time she was with her “other” family.
I do recall one photo that my parents took, we were all bunched up together, numbah one son holding numbah five son, the rest of us standing there with arms away from our sides, trying not to get sand where it didn’t need to be.
How I ever managed to spend massive amounts of time at Tybee later on is beyond me. Must have had something to do with the hunch punch that made it bearable. That and the fact that I didn’t have to eat pb&j or soggy tuna sannies.
One weekend, mom and pops decided we needed to expand, so we trekked up to Hilton Head, back when there wasn’t much there except the beach. Mom decided we needed to live a little, so we stopped into a restaurant for lunch. Pop nearly passed out at the thought of spending $3 for a hamburger, an astronomical sum back in the early ’70s. We ate our lunch and off to the beach we went. It was a bit nicer than the usual Jekyll trip, but not much. On the way home, Pop decided on a detour and we found another little burger joint by the side of the road. The Moonburger Drive In. It was cheap, greasy, and right up Pop’s alley.
We were all sicker than snot that night, so Pop scratched that off his list.
If we were well behaved on the ride home and no one managed to barf in the car (i.e., me), we’d get a treat of KFC when we got home. There is no better feeling in the world than to shower off the sand and the Coppertone, put on fresh clothes, and settle down to a bucket of chicken and cole slaw. The sunburn and blistered heels from the sand rubbing inside your sneakers made it all worthwhile.
As I make my way down to the sand and water, Sunnybuns stays a few paces ahead of me. I holler at him “why are you going so fast?”
He stops in his tracks and looks me up and down.
“Because you’re wearing pajamas, a big floppy hat, sneakers, and that white stuff on your nose.”
I shoo him along, struggling with the oversized beach umbrella and jumbo straw bag.
Little does he know that I’ve got some squidgy pb&j sandwiches for his snack. Might as well make his beach trip a memorable one, too.