soft dry sand between my toes; old green beach blanket, large and square fitting all four of us; picnic basket; new pail and shovel; smell of the ocean, Sea and Ski suntan lotion, Tar Tan tanning oil with its red and black tartan plaid label and its own wonderful smell; wet, cold, hard-packed sand at the edge of the water; little wave-lets sliding over my feet and receding; and, finally, immersion in cool dark blue water, slowly rising over my body; the waves, lifting me up and gently setting me down, my feet on the sandy bottom again.
these are the memories of the childhood vacations i so loved. those images still stir something in my soul; still bring the sights, sounds, and smells to my senses. i go there sometimes, in my mind, when life is overwhelming and i need a feel-good break.
excitement began building even as we packed to go there, choosing a suitcase, pulling out bathing suits and sunglasses not used since the summer before. my mom was fussing and annoyed at the effort of making sure everyone was packed and ready, working hard so that we would come home to a house clean and in order. she was the only mom i knew who felt the need to clean before a vacation.
my dad’s face that said that he, like my sister and me, was looking forward to the seaside he loved, enjoying the excited faces of his two girls. he sunburned easily, limiting his beach time to late afternoon when the hot rays of the sun had begun to burn off and breezes stirred, minimizing the heat of the day.
i remember fondly watching him body-surf the waves, having dived under the larger ones to more easily access the other side of each one, until he was out far enough to catch just the right wave. he seemed so at home in the water. it was a feeling i share to this day. though my beach trips are severely limited, living in the desert as i do.
we also shared a deep love of the desert. its wide open spaces and far-off views evoke a similar feeling to what we experienced at the ocean which disappeared into eternity, as far as one could see, with only an occasional ship on the horizon. nothing, however, can match that wonderful olfactory effect of the sea. except, just maybe, the desert after a rainstorm.
my very first experience of rain in the desert prompted me to exclaim excitedly, “it smells like the boardwalk!” of course the boardwalk, in those days, was made of or coated with creosote, the very same tree that lends the desert rain its wonderful odor.