At 10 years old, my greatest wish was for suntan lines. Thanks to my parents' affinity for SPF 45, it wasn't to be.
Meanwhile, across town, the boy who eventually would become my husband was living my dream. Matt's family had just enough Lebanese blood to matter. His mom's astonishingly dark tans were legendary; his dad routinely refused to leave his beach chair until he'd seen the sun set. Most summers their family spent at least two weeks at the beach.
My family went to the beach every year, too, but these trips weren't particularly memorable and, in retrospect, I suspect my parents endured rather than enjoyed them. A quick call to my mom confirmed this.
"What did we do at the beach?" I asked her.
"Oh, we took walks, played in the water, built sandcastles ..." she began.
"But never between 11 and 3, right?" (That’s when UV rays are most intense.)
"So what did we do then?"
"Well, we stayed inside, in the air conditioning, mainly. We read books and stuff like that," she said. "We never played putt-putt, we never did water parks, we never went to the amusement parks. We didn't go shopping. We did eat out. We usually only stayed one night, you know.
"I'm not much of a beach person," she clarified.
To add insult to injury, my parents took us to quiet, family-friendly
My big break as a beach bum came my senior year of high school, when Matt got to invite several friends to join his family in the
By the end of the first day I glowed red and could neither take a shower nor wear shoes without pain. I kept waiting for it to "sink in" and "turn to tan." It never did, but finally it peeled off.
I bought sunscreen and learned to use it. Mom and Dad were right about that.
But I never have come to share their indifference about the beach. In fact, as soon as Matt and I got married, we moved to
The beach – any beach – remains our favorite escape. Over the years we've spread our towels on a lot of them, from secluded Caribbean spots to, yes,
Having a baby changes everything, as people trip over themselves to tell you. And it's true, a day at the beach isn't quite as relaxing as it used to be. Between keeping Claire slathered in sunscreen and stopping her from eating sand, there's not a lot of time to gaze at the ocean and think deep thoughts.
I know this too shall pass.
Matt has no memory of learning to swim. Claire, too, shows early signs of being a water baby. In only a few years, I suspect, she and her future siblings will spend their days at the beach holding bodysurfing contests and faking shark attacks on each other, happy to pretend their parents don't exist until they need someone to buy them lunch.
Matt and I will be back to our books – probably wishing they'd let us join the fun.