“Don’t grow up too quickly, lest you forget how much you love the beach.”
I had a micro-epiphany today. Bridge, Megs, Jaybo and myself, the eldest four of the baker’s dozen that is our family are a subculture of sorts, the older kids. Sambo being Sam gets his own category of Korean, adopted, larger-life-special goodness, and the younger eight (Holy cow, there are still another eight? It still startles me nine years into Jakey’s arrival as our baby bookened.) own their own category as well. I realized today, sitting on a Florida beach untouched by the oil crisis as of yet, that we older four share Florida as part of our identity. We grew up on the beach.
Sam came into our family in Florida, and life changed a bit, and then we moved to Texas where one-by-one, save the twins, we added to our masses.
Being beach kids, I thought today, emphasizes an abundance of my happiest childhood memories. My memory is famously foggy, and my sisters often help clarify events and details of our collective childhood story. The beach memories are not so much specific stories as much as a composite of goodness given to us by parents who had four young children in the Orlando area in the eighties. They wisely opted to take said children to the beach many weekends. I now suspect they knew that doing so would ensure quiet weekend nights due to four crashed out little bodies.
Mom packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and juice boxes or a cooler of water. The sandwiches were always soggy, and to this day, I prefer my bread toasted as a result of my dislike of bread compromised by sogginess, even if grape jelly is the culprit. That is not a complaint, just a nuance that stands out. She’d spread out a blanket and empty a laundry basket of buckets, shovels, balls and other necessities. I remember her building sand castles with me and burying my feet and taking me for walks. When Jaybo was a baby, he’d lay beside us on that blanket, and he grew into a toddler who joined our play and then a chunky-legged boy in a bright red speedo with orange water wings and goggles, always goggles, who ran out into the water with us.
Dad taught us to play frisbee and swim out past the breakers, and he never seemed to run out of energy or patience at the beach. We girls were skinny-legged and imaginative, and he swam with us and endured our silliness and threw us in the water. I remember laughter, and I remember occasionally flying a kite. I don’t know if it’s photographs or concrete memories, but I can picture Dad at the beach in orange swim trunks and an over-sized white polo shirt (He gave my sisters and brother who composed my whole sibling group at the time pasty white skin that didn’t necessarily love the sun… Mom and I go brown if we so much as think about going outside). Sometimes he ran. Mostly, at least as my memory serves me, my dad played with us. And kids need dads who play with them.
I kept thinking about this on the beach today and was sad for my younger siblings to have missed out on that seemingly endless season of weekends where we had nothing to do but be together in the sun and sand effortlessly creating a montage of memories of the good stuff of life given to us kids by parents who were doing their best to love us well. I was sad for them but relieved that we had moved away by the time the masses arrived over years that followed. The thought of the beach combined with the energy of the seven boys and Debo who’d join our family over time? That’s a lot to consider. Besides, they have Texas to claim, a claim I concede with gladness to my younger siblings. We older kids? We claim the beach.