I am human so I love the beach and the water. It’s soothing to stare at and inspirational for all types – photographers, theologians, painters, poets, and I’m guessing, boat builders. You can get wrapped up envisioning the generations of admirers that have come before you, sitting on these same shores in their old timey clothes, happy to escape the grind of old timey life like covered wagons and washboards and lard buckets. It’s easy to think about God and bigness and eternity. You respect the power of the water, and the majesty of the sunsets and mountains.
But when it comes time to clean off two sandy boys in a rented retreat center bathroom, I think not so nice things about nature and the beach, and that maybe a lard bucket wouldn’t be so bad after all. Sand, as noble and poetic as it is, is exceptionally hard to remove from little legs and bobbing heads of thick hair. There are never enough towels, and there’s not an actual lid on this toilet, so anything that comes in a 4-foot radius of it, is most certainly going to wind up in it. This is not your home shower, so its quirks are still a fun mystery to you…. either one drastically wayward stream of water that shoots all over the room, or the nozzle that you somehow left pointed at the front door. That’s fun because when you turn it on, your child is left naked and shivering and dry, and you are clothed, soaked and fake-swearing. “Ding dang! Darg blummit!” The sibling is of course unattended in the other room, still wearing his goggles, with sand coming out of every crevice. He is more than likely rolling around in the sheets of all of the beds and trying on your watch.
Wet bathing suits hang from every available pole, hanger and hook, dripping, dripping, dripping onto your purse, or creating a slipping hazard for later.
If we were living in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog, the beach would be a breeze. Our little toe headed beach adept sand angels would play an innocent game of tag while giggling, then finish with big hugs and brotherly cuddles. I would of course be wearing a designer tunic while preparing fresh lemonade spritzers in my nautically themed kitchen. We would have outside showers and our personalized towels would hang jauntily from conveniently placed kid-height pegs. But alas, the beach for most people on planet Earth, is not like that.
I grew up vacationing every summer in our family’s travel trailer, either in Santa Cruz or Southern California, but always by the beach. So the trauma and the drama of the beach shower was very much a part of the summer routine. My older brother and dad would wait patiently in our patio/picnic area complete with astro turf and strung owl party lights, while I would scream dramatically from the trailer’s postage stamp bathroom, “Stop! Stop! My eyes! My eyes! I’m blind! I’m drowning!” My mother would somehow keep her cool and remind me that if I stopped screaming about my eyes, I would be less likely to swallow so much shower water. There was no pesky sunblock back then that we would have to wash off, but my brand new sunburn would certainly keep things interesting. “My shoulders! My eyes! I’m blind! I’m burning!”
When the screaming was over, I would emerge in my terry cloth outfit, freshly pig tailed, gangly arms crossed, 300 more freckles than I started the day with, and undoubtedly frowning. Scott and dad would maybe pump up the tires on the bike or throw a Frisbee. Mom would bring out hamburgers, and 3 different kinds of pickles, potato chips and Shasta Cola, humming. Nobody would speak of the injustice of the mandatory beach shower.
When John manages this process with our boys, he makes it look so easy – everybody lined up, in and out of the shower, no big deal. I thought of him and the serenity my mother would maintain through my hissy fits as I looked for clean shorts for the kid jumping on the bed, and a pair of socks for the one digging through my purse for gum.
With everybody dressed, relatively dry, and smelling better, we made our way down the hall for lunch, when the little one turned to me, “I am so excited to go right back to the beach the second we finish eating!”