Storybook Beach Days

One afternoon last week, we picked the kids up after school and headed to the beach for our last after-school stop before the time change. (This time of year, that hour of afternoon light makes a noticeable difference.) I’d planned this a couple of days earlier, and I’d packed snacks and beach gear in advance, in anticipation of our post-school pursuits.

I don’t know how many of you do this, but I tend to create mental narratives, complete with extensive visuals and light background music, of how these things “are going to go.” Hallmark would like them. Really. However, mostly I think I’m just setting myself up for failure, since these visions rarely match with reality.

In this case, picture me, all smiley and gung ho when we all got in the minivan, with LCB playing the part of my dutiful sidekick. Picture the back seat filled with all the trappings of a fun afternoon on the beach. Imagine the upbeat music that played in the background and the sun that radiated through the windows of our vehicle.

Now, picture the look on my face when I realized, en route, that one of my children just “wasn’t in the mood” for the beach that day. Is that an actual thing? Then, picture our arrival at the beach, where the sun now sat in cloud cover. Imagine the winds that picked up, followed by light rain, as we made our camp in the sand, and the goose bumps that formed on my arms to remind me that I’m not a Yankee anymore. (Seriously, it’s stunning how a sudden drop into the 70s can send my former Yankee self into a tailspin now.)

Picture me hauling out all of the snacks in one fell swoop in an attempt to salvage the moment, only to be met with the kids’ tacit disappointment in the snack selection. (I’d managed to hit two of the four food groups in my packing, and everything was appropriately bagged and moderately organized, so I frankly felt this was to be lauded. In retrospect, maybe I oversold it on the way there.) Finally, envision a child putting a sweaty, sandy hand on my opened granola bar I was about to bite into (for reasons that are still unclear to any who bore witness to this), and I… react in a non-tacit fashion.

IMG_9831None of this fit with my grand vision for the afternoon.

So I took a walk, and the kids arranged their towels and ate their inadequate snacks, and LCB read while we all waited for what would happen next. Darker clouds, storybook in nature, growing in size, blew toward us.

IMG_9837And then, when I was losing hope, this one decided to heck with it all, grabbed our tube, and headed out to sea. His siblings watched for a time, shoving grapes and pretzels in their mouths like moviegoers with popcorn.

After quite a few minutes of this, I looked up and noticed the storybook clouds were beginning to break.  

IMG_9857Baby-Girl noticed too, and set down her food. She hesitated at first, but decided she wasn’t one much for letting her brother hog the tube. My eldest caved soon after and the three found a way to make one large tube hold three not-so-small-anymore people. There was some slipping off initially amid a heated debate about the physics of the whole thing, but ultimately they achieved tube-sitting success.  

IMG_9876For a long time afterward, they sat and talked and kept watch on the horizon.

IMG_9885Real-life stories don’t always end this way, but in this one, the sun did finally break through, leaving the thinning clouds a stunning part of the skyscape.

The kids didn’t say much on the way home, their minds already on to homework and dinner and chores, but the next day, when I picked them up after school, one of them sighed and said, “Oh, I wish it were yesterday.”

“Why?” I asked, looking back at him in my rearview mirror.

“Because then we’d be heading to the beach,” he answered, his tone conveying his surprise that the answer wasn’t obvious.

2 Replies to “Storybook Beach Days”

  1. I’m continually amazed at the spin the days take through the eyes of my kids. Sometimes, all we have to do is set the stage and let the story write itself.

    1. Yeah, that’s exactly it. But I often still have the whole narrative I pre-wrote running through my mind, so I guess that clouds my vision.

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