Friday, November 30, 2007

the beach

The other day, I read a book review at work that launched a mighty sense of nostalgia for the beach.
I was lucky enough to have parents who grew up loving the beach – what I would consider the REAL beach, with waves that break, wind in your hair, sand in your (everywhere) and where it pretty much never, ever gets above about 55 degrees – not the poser beaches I’ve been to elsewhere. (I realize that's highly subjective. Please allow me my subjectivity here.)

I reflect sometimes on how lucky I was to be taken to the beach at least a couple of times a year in my youth. The place we went the most often was at Rockaway, Oregon – called Camp Magruder. It’s still there, the handy internet tells me, still run by Methodists. I went to a summer camp there for a week, two or three times, and my extended family would meet there (in the big lodge, where I was forbidden to go when there as a camper) for spring break. It was divine. In addition to the beach, the camp had a ‘big swing’ that was a loop you could sit in that wrapped around a tree that was kind of hanging over a cliff (a little one). And they had a freshwater lake on the eastern border of the camp that you could row or canoe or, later, paddleboat in. The one and only fish I caught in my life, I caught there. One year, my dad devised clues for a scavenger hunt around the camp. It utilized all the big draws – you even had to take a boat out onto the lake to get one of the clues. (or so we were led to believe – Dad told us later he’d secured it to the big dead overhanging tree via a land route. Hmph!)

The best part, though, were the campfires at night. My grandpa, a man of few words, and my grandma, a woman of many songs, would make that event special. Grandpa scouted up the requisite driftwood for a fire, and he’d drive some horseshoe stakes into the ground, and us kids (my three female cousins, me and my younger brother) would poke around and see what we could find on the beach. When darkness fell – after we watched the flaming ball of sun drop into the ocean, a feat not easily possible on the East Coast – we roasted marshmallows and sang songs. And oh, did my grandmother know songs! From the man on the flying trapeze, to the preacher who hunted the bear, to the man who invented a machine that made sausages out of the neighborhood cats and dogs … family classics, all. And the fifteen thousand-piece puzzle awaiting us at the lodge that the adults would rush back to pore over some more. (only a slight exaggeration, I assure you.) And the huge cupboard into which my younger cousin and I would squeeze with our recently acquired Betty and Veronica comic books and Jolly Ranchers. And games of volleyball and tetherball. Much of it footage for home movies somewhere in my uncle and aunt’s house.

It’s a happy memory, and I’m smug in my remembering, until I realize: My daughter is not growing up going to the beach every year. She doesn’t know what it’s like to force yourself into the wind along the beach, which is too cold, but you don’t care because there might be a special shell or even a Japanese float just ahead!

Then it all just makes me sad.

We went to the beach, in April. In California, with my brother and his family. This beach was near L.A., but somehow it was still cool. Almost no one else was there, and I suppose it was early enough in the year that it somewhat resembled a Pacific Northwest beach. In that windy and cold kind of way. Not quite as scenic, but when you're starving for beach, you'll take it.

Lizzy loved it. It's getting more and more expensive to get us to the West Coast, but I have to stay committed to the attempt. At the end of the day, or the middle of one's life ... it's worth it.


  1. Michele (Montana)11:35 PM EST

    Funny how that nostalgic childhood thing comes in to play: I live in Montana. It is beautiful. However, I often find myself missing sagebrush country and those brilliant summer sunsets where the color bounces off the combine dust in the air...

  2. If you want cold AND wet, try the OR/WA coast in early February! We'll be spending two nights in Long Beach right after you fly home from the 90th next year. Good thing they have an indoor pool. Sorry you can't join us!