Mark had a brilliant idea. He does not teach on Tuesdays, Sophie doesn't have preschool, and Alexander's kindergarten orientation wasn't until Wednesday, so he thought it might be fun to head to the shore AFTER the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Mark picked a beach which was further away than our beloved Ocean City, but still under 2 hours drive away. We packed a lunch, dinner, and a 2nd pair of clothes and headed off to uncharted waters by mid morning. The girls got a few winks on the drive and when things started to turn ugly, Toy Story 2 on portable DVD (what on Earth did we do without these?) saved the day.
When we arrived I began to feel like Annie when Daddy Warbucks bought out Radio City Music Hall for a movie just for her. Seriously. The beach and boardwalk were empty. I mean EM.P.TY! However, all of the stores on the boardwalk hocking their wares were still open and happy to have customers. The food vendors, bathrooms, information center, all still open - and it felt like they were there just for us!
The only drawback was that the shore was pretty far from the boardwalk, far enough to offer "taxi services" at $2/person. Despite a broken and infected toe (his foot didn't clear a baby gate, ouch!) and a boat load of stuff, Mark hauled the 2 girls in the MCU (mobile command unit double stroller) to our spot.
Our time on the beach was healing in a way that I'm still not sure I can fully comprehend. It was just us and a lone life guard who gave me a sense of safety while trying to keep an eye on three active small children near a massive body of water. No computers, no cell phones. Just our family, together. The wind was constant and fierce but calming, which in combination with the crashing surf offered a white noise that softened the edges of any bickering.
Quickly we each began to play a role in this family drama.
Mark: Body Surfer. It was an incoming tide. The waves meant business and hit him at about a 45 degree angle, dragging him down the shore. He scarcely had a moment to wipe his eyes when the next wave broke over him, and he loved it. He took it on as a challenge and doctor's orders to soak that busted toe in salty water.
Alexander: Builder. My son will grow up to create as a career, mark my words. Whether it be structures or ships or something else, this kid loves to design and build. He is so curious as to how the water effects the sand and spent hours digging, scooping, shaping.
Sophie: Daredevil. This girl acts as if she were born on the shore. Unlike the last two times when went to the beach and she warmed up to the water in her own time, she took to it immediately and devised her own game of "Tag, You're It!" Pig tails flying in the wind she would race, FEARLESS, into the water. Thank goodness it was really shallow for quite a while. She chased her friend the sea only to turn and run SQUEALING back to shore as the waves washed in. This endless game of tag brought her hours of joy and I swear the sound of her laughter could soften the hardest of hearts.
Helena: Explorer. Its hard to talk about the Schmoog (her nickname and frankly what we most often call her) without talking about my role as well. Helena is wary of the sea like a frienemy that has done her wrong one to many times. She is curious but none too impressed when a particularly vicious wave knocks her down. She was most happy with Mama.
Mama: Beachcomber. Yes, I did go into the water, albeit briefly. The water was churning so hard that I couldn't see at all beneath the surface. Remember NO ONE else was out there. So, I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm pee-in-my-pants afraid of sharks in a way that many land lubbers who have seen Jaws and were raised inland tend to be. I've long feared that I would be shark bait should I dare to venture into the ocean. Now, the past two times we've been to the shore, I spent a good deal of time body surfing. However, I had a ton of people around me. On this trip I was the ONLY one in the water and I didn't like my odds (stop laughing). So instead Helena and I took many trips up and down our beach in search of treasure.
My dream was to find just one piece of pure sea glass, though I knew my chances were slim. Any beachcomber will tell you that the search is just as exciting as the find. My girl was a perfect companion as we explored, heads down, searching for buried treasure. She quickly caught on and began plucking pieces of shells from the sand while exclaiming her joy at her find. Together we amassed quite a collection of shells, bits of sand dollars, beautiful pebbles rounded the same way as beach glass into smooth surfaces of amber, jade, snowy white, charcoal, and a piece of something black and sparkly that was once either wood or coal.
I swear I did find treasure. Shimmering just beneath the surface at water's edge I recognized a coin and for a second I let my imagination believe it could be a doubloon or pieces of eight. Some might say it was just a quarter, but to me, it was my first buried treasure. However, my favorite find is a small, nickel sized, rusty piece of metal that Alexander found, for he swears it is from a sunken ship, and I believe him.
I may be a girl from Iowa, but I'm drawn to the sea in a way that I can't rightly describe. Our family adventures fill my soul and I wonder if my kids will ever know just how lucky they are. Here are a few panoramas to show how empty the place really was. Then, click on the smilebox for more pictures and videos. Tips for viewing this smilebox: Click play to view the smilebox which will open in a separate window. It can be viewed smaller or full screen, with or without audio. Click individual photos to enlarge and click again to minimize. Some are videos which can be played by clicking on them. Click again to stop video. Enjoy our day at the beach!
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*you might also like Beach Baby, about our first trip to the Shore.