Oh how I love the beach. Or "the coast", as people here in the Northwest like to say. It's funny, isn't it, how you can tell what part of the country someone is from based on how they refer to the edge of earth holding them/us in from all that blue water. I have always preferred the word "sea" to the word "ocean". Sea seems much larger, much more romantic, somehow. Maybe it's the way one vowel-ended syllable can hang in the air for an extended minute like it's waiting for the crisp, consonant ending that never comes. I don't know. Ocean just sounds boxed up, figured out, contained.
We spent five days over the Fourth of July just two blocks from the water. The sea. This was the third year we've vacationed on or very near the Fourth, and the third year that we had perfect seaside vacation weather: warm and even hot sunny days, cool nights tangled with breeze and salt mist. We stayed in the same little house, too.
If you must know, three years ago Penelope was conceived in that very beach town, in that same beach house, exactly on the Fourth of July. Earlier that night, Jeffrey and I had brought a blanket and a bottle of wine down onto the beach and we spent a couple of peaceful, happy hours watching the many fireworks shows exploding up and down the endless miles of sand, their sound a muffled crackling within the roar and crash of the evening tide. Our last summer as the two of us. It wasn't planned that way--it just happened.
I have pictures from that night and we look happy and very young.
Last year when we came, Penelope was only two months old and hated almost every minute in which she got anywhere near the sound or spray of the water, not to mention the wind and the light. She was not a fan and we thought it hilarious, considering her origination, but held out hope for a better time this year. We were not disappointed.
She took off running the moment we set her down on the sand, and when I pointed at the water she picked up speed until I realized that she wasn't going to stop, she was actually going to run right into all that foam and crash and blue and just keep going. And that's when I started running too. As soon as her feet actually hit the water she paused, and I scooped her up and shook the adrenaline out of my legs and arms. The water this far north is almost always ice-cold and I hadn't really been that far behind her, but for two seconds there I had begun to relive every moment in her short life....
The rest of the five days were jam-packed with a whole lot of not much, just the way we like our vacations. Getting up every morning to cloud-hazed skies and discussions of whether it would actually burn off this time (it always did), deliberations about where to go get lattes, what to have for dinner and when to head over to the market, whether to take a long, leisurely shower while the baby was napping or later, when the hours of chasing her in the sun and getting covered in sand and grit and the juice of fresh, sickeningly sweet cherries were done.
I feel so lucky to be able to do this, year after year. To have a partner whose job still pays for this small and necessary luxury of time away together, with no phone calls and emails and emergencies to attend to and networks to fix. Time just to be.
This year we'll be going again before the summer is over and I'm already counting the days.
I don't think I'll ever have to worry about her running away to join the circus. Anyone walking by with a dog, however, could be an issue. Two dogs? Notice how she doesn't even give a thought to who the people are, whether or not their dogs are even nice, and most especially why in tarnation Moses and his Red Sea-parting rod are making a Fourth of July appearance on the Oregon Coast. (Maybe those "God and country" people are finally getting their prayers answered.)
And yes, I did say cherries. Have I mentioned just how much my baby loves them?
She was so happy from a day spent digging in the biggest sandbox ever, being chased into that much water, and then having cherries....well, she pulled out the ol' Penelope Happy Dance and stomped her feet and clapped her hands and sang made-up songs, and bobbed her head up and down. I mean, after that who needs fireworks?