The last day at the beach. Again. How many years have we observed this ritual? At least a dozen, maybe more. Infants grew to toddlers and
transformed to men building sand castles on this beach and
cannonballing from the splintery, decaying dock into the shockingly
cold and smooth aqua marbled lake.
It is a small spit of sand that edges into crystal clear water the deep blue of a dusky evening. Today the sky is the color of God’s living room. This is summer to my family. Rimmed by towering pine trees that stretch to heaven, this lake in Massachusetts epitomizes the beauty of a New England summer.
Our first day at the beach is full of anticipation and plans. Who is going where on vacation? How about camps for the kids? Mothers languidly chat and gossip idly. Topics ping-pong from school board politics to good books to read and great movies to watch, then zoom to why we are still in Iraq, who is the better presidential candidate, how can the lady down the street–the one at church every Sunday–carry on with someone else’s husband, and what happened with the school janitor getting arrested at midnight on the town common for
assault and battery? We gather at this pond (New England-speak for
lake) as around a hot fire on a cold day, baked by the sun, warmed by
the novelty of exposing our skin and our secrets to each other.
By the time the beach closes at the end of August there is always a
chill in the air as evening approaches. Beach towels double as warm
shawls. With the fast approaching closure comes the melancholy of
another ending. Kids beg for their last candy treat and whine about
what’s for supper. I wonder what the new school year holds.
The final day at the lake brings that ubiquitous feeling of sadness
that accompanies any loss. Goodbye to almost daily communion with
friends with few quotidian deadlines. Farewell to salty, sweaty summer
days as damp as dishrags, sodden with humidity. Adieu to afternoons
when the air wafts as shiny and bright and dry as a brand new nickel,
so fresh I cannot gulp it into my longs fast enough. An end to
conversation sometimes so boring that it induces sleep as well as to
talk as fascinating as reading the latest Tom Wolfe novel or as
addictive as a National Enquirer. Our seasonal beach breakup looms.
Like all separations, who knows whether we will come together again
and find our same summer haven? Families fall to pieces, nations fight
civil wars, couples divorce, parents die, lovers part. A pond, a
floating dock, a group of friends…what are the odds for surviving
another year? Looking back toward the water, I hesitate as the sand
shifts beneath my feet as I pivot toward the exit.
Jane Lawson is a Cincinnati transplant who has been living in Norfolk, MA for the last 19 years. She is an accomplished writer of history and is currently working on a piece concerning African-American soldiers in World War I. Her previous works include a book about early air combat entitled The First Air Campaign.