Reflections on the Beach

SandPail_2Perspective. It’s what makes all the difference in life, doesn’t it?

Looking up through the trees at the sky looks different than looking across the trees at the sky. Glasses half empty or half full. All that falderal.

Like life at the beach.

This afternoon I was sitting at a picnic table at a small beach at a small lake in a small town. I’d finished my part of the water ballet, letting my grandson and his grandpa finish the ballet water-splash style.

The world went on as it always has…it’s just that this time I was sitting on the other side of the table. Watching the world as an observer instead of a participant.

It’s pretty busy for a small beach. Little kids manage to hit the excited scream level a lot of the time – whether it was laughing, fighting with siblings, or crying. I wonder if the sound bounces off the water a lot harder these days.

Women chat while their kids jump off the pier. Cathy was still going out with the louse from the next town, Handy’s had the best fish fry this side of the Mississippi. Jim was always working overtime and spending his spare hours at the golf course, and Neighbor Grocery’s produce had gone down in quality the last few years. I myself have always loved the ebb and flow of people talking when they don’t think others are listening. Voices always float through the air, bits and pieces getting caught in the sack chair or wrapped around the picnic bench so that all you catch is a sentence’s jagged inference. Maybe the louse from the next town is a dentist, maybe he’s a mechanic. All that could be grasped was the audacity of the woman sharing her thoughts.

Love games still abound at the beach, too. The cute little high schooler, long legs, short shorts, long dark hair wrapping around her shoulders; and the tall, lanky guy, not really a jock but not bad looking. She sways back and forth, hands behind her back, playing the coy card. He leans forward, saying something a little risque, and they both laugh, she turning slightly away. He threatens to throw her in the water; she squeals “no no!” in her loveliest girly voice. He grabs her towel (or hat or sunscreen), hides it behind his back, and she giggles, trying to get it back from him.

A lovely Lolita-ish girl walks down the pier, her tanned body barely covered by her flowered bikini. A young thing, maybe late high school, maybe a tad older, walking down to the end of the pier, blonde hair blazing in the sun, where she stops, and I imagine, sighs dramatically. There’s no sunset to dream upon yet; no cat calls from the audience, no college scholarship with her name on it. But there’s something sexy and dramatic about the sad, curvy side of youth.

Kids are always kids. One skinny 5-year-old desperately tries to gain the attention of two older 8-year-old girls, his arms flaying in the air, his swim goggles making him look like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. My insecurities make me uncomfortable. He doesn’t feel anything of the kind. He drifts off to look for fish in the shallow water, the girls never knowing he was there.

Three boys, all but four years old, compete with each other as Superman jumping off the deck into the shallow water. Bigger boys come by and laugh, some jump in and splash the little ones aside, making waves, being even cooler than the little kids. The little kids are too young to care; the middle schoolers get an ego boost by bullying those half their age.

It’s a cornucopia at this little beach on this little lake in this little town. I fancy nothing has changed in all the years moms have been bringing their kids to swim and high schoolers have come to make out and flirt and make plans for Saturday night. Not even me.

I still think of the time I never spent at the beach, never flirting with the kinda cute guy on the pier, never  dreaming dreams only cute girls can dream.





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