Writing 101: A Childhood on the Beach

So I have had this blog for six years or more.  And I love it.  It’s totally random when I post, I don’t really promote it much (if ever), and I do it for me.  In January 2013 I discovered Link parties.  I loved them.  It encouraged me to post on a weekly (okay, 3 or 4 times weekly) basis.  Different questions picked each week, and different topics.  But it was all fluff.  It was nothing of substance.  And I found myself looking for motivation to write on a more meaningful basis rather than answering what my three favorite pins were from Pinterest or what the contents of my wallet happened to be.

Tonight I discovered the Daily Writing Challenge.  It looks like it might be the thing I am looking for.  I don’t know if I will participate daily or just a few times a month.  But I’m going to give it a try.  Let’s see how it goes!

The challenge is named Three times Three. You can choose to write a post inspired by a response to the “Threes” photo challenge, or you can write your post based on three photos you supply.  I chose some of the photos that were provided by the post and the memory that these pictures evoked in me.

Three Views Along the Shore by Sue Nash

Immediately when I saw this trio of images I was whisked back to my childhood and the time we spent at Nags Head.  Some of my earliest memories are from the beach.  (In fact, my mother loves to point out the hotel I was probably conceived in much to my everlasting horror.)  I remember one time being there with my parents and baby brother, it was hotter than the sun, and the car broke so we had to walk on the beach road to get ice.  I remember another time, I couldn’t have been four even, where I was sitting underneath the stilted cottage playing in the sand.  Now I was never a make-believe kind of girl, but for some reason that day I was making mudpies.  I remember playing in the sand and as I said the words “mix with water” my father–intentionally–let loose with the ice cold water from the cooler, opening the drain right over my head.  I was terrified, and can still hear my father laughing.

Fast forward about eight or ten years.  My mom was trying to make it on her own with little help from my father at that time, and so we would go down and crash part of a week in July that my Grandparents paid for.  Mom, brother, and me in a one room efficiency motel room with my Grandparents.  The memories associated with this are so plentiful, and so treasured especially now that my grandfather has been gone for so long.  For some reason, they were under the delusion that fish only bit at 4am, so they’d rouse everyone out of bed and take us to the little bridge (you know, as opposed to the big bridge) to go fishing.  I. Hated. It.  I still, to this day, am a big sleeper, and waking me up at 4am does not endear anyone to me.  But I had no choice.  So up I got, and I strung worms on my hook, and I fished.  And when I caught a Spot or Croaker, my Papa would take it off the hook for me.  My brother would then pretend to scale it, but instead he’d put the knife behind the eyeballs and flick ’em at me.  Gotta love baby brothers.  But we’d be there, in a line, on the side of the bridge, fishing.  When my brother and I took my mom for her 60th birthday a few years ago, we went fishing on that little bridge.  It’s changed, been updated, so you now have a wall at your back instead of traffic.  Mom still can’t catch anything other than a piece of asphalt, and little brother still likes to flick the eyeballs at me.  But I found a Sharpie in my pocket and before we went back to the hotel for the day I left a message to Papa on that bridge, because I know he was there with us.

Because you were up at the crack of dawn, you had to wait until seven or so when the fish quit biting to go back for breakfast.  Papa would make up a batch of fresh fried fish roe from the catch of the day.  And yes, it was as nasty as it sounds.  I still to this day cannot stand the smell of it.  Fresh fruit from the fruit stand for me, thanks.  You would have one special day where you got to fish off the pier.  You would spend afternoons fishing off the shore–and that’s where I shone.  I would always be able to catch stuff from the surf, right as the tide was pulling out.  Dig in the sand a bit for some sand fleas, use them as bait, put them on the hook, and then cast away.  Pull in two at a time from the ocean.  Nana, however, never caught anything but a low flying seagull.

There were day trips for (horror) shopping.  Nothing was any fun but the kite store and the fudge shop.  They had department stores at home, so why do we need to see them at the beach?  There were trips across the sound to lighthouses and, ugh, more shopping.  There were ways that we felt rich, though we had no money.  There were wonders to be found in the sand, there was fresh churned ice cream to make, there was sand to wash out of our suits.  There was the smell of coconut and suntan oil, zinc and salt, and rafts that made you lightheaded as you spent forever blowing them up.  There was the inevitable sunburn (curse my pasty white skin) that was so bad I couldn’t sleep at night and stuck to the sheets from all the aloe I had on.  There was the one night we got to go out to dinner as a treat.

But most of all, there was the family, around the table.  Grandparents, mom, brother, and whatever aunts and uncles came along on that trip.  Cousins too, thought not as often.  And after dinner we’d pull out the cards and play Rook until we were falling over from laughing so hard and being so tired from getting up at 4am.  I was always partners with my grandfather and my uncle, and mom would join my brother and her mother.  And lose.  The competitive playing, the insane bidding.  The small little “here Tweedy Tweedy Tweedy Tweedy” come from my grandfather at the head of the table as someone else dealt the cards, calling for the Rook to end up in his hand.  The daring “Shoot the Moon” or worse, “Down the Line” would come from him as well–and he would be missing the top three trumps.  And he would pull it off.  Nearly every single time.

Every year, we would watch as our friends from school and swimming would go to Europe, go to their second river home, go to tennis camp and golf camp and horseback riding camp.  And we would wait for them to come home and hear all the details of their trip, where they went, the places they visited, and the adventures they had.

And we would wait for July to see if we would maybe go to the beach.  For there we were no longer the poor kids that couldn’t afford three weeks in France.  We weren’t the poor kids from a divorced family.  There we were able to be kids that could delight in the small things and live every moment to the fullest.

I have found as an adult that my family members often don’t remember the memories that I hold most dear.  My dad doesn’t remember the time he rag curled my hair and made me look like Shirley Temple.  My mom doesn’t remember throwing the bread at dad and having it land in his peas when he asked her to “toss him a roll”.  My brother doesn’t remember a lot of things from the early years.  But we all remember the beach.  My dad remembers busting a gut as he let the stream of ice water pour down on my head.  My brother and I still call “here, Tweedy Tweedy Tweedy Tweedy” as we play Rook with family (because we can’t find anyone our age that knows how to play it!).  My mom and I still talk about the sunburn I got that one time.  My brother still remembers how our grandmother taught him to make fart noises with the back of his knee while getting ready for bed one night, and the time she took out our false teeth and sang Frosty the Snowman to us while riding in the back of the pickup truck on a ferry ride across the sound.  We all remember getting up at 4am, how cranky I was every time, and the joy we had in the simple act of baiting a hook and dropping it in the water.

And those memories are the ones that will last a lifetime.

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