The sun is hot, hotter than it’s been all week. But I’ve lazed around; I’ve read fun sexy beach books; I’ve slathered on the lotion and sat like a beached whale; and I’ve swum with the jellyfish. Finally, I am ready. “Mom, let’s go for a long walk,” I suggest. My slim, petite mother looks at me hesitantly.
“What about lunch?” she asks.
I laugh. She’s 5’2” and 100 pounds soaking wet, yet she eats like an elephant. Can’t take a walk in the early morning unless she’s had a banana and two bowls of cereal. Can’t walk mid-morning unless she’s had a peanut butter sandwich. Can’t walk at 1 unless she’s had two sandwiches, three cookies, an apple, and a tall glass of milk.
“Mom, it’s 12:30. We’ll walk on the beach to 32nd Street and eat there.”
“That’s 9 blocks,” she whines. She’s more limber than a football player and has more energy than a ballerina, but she’s worried about how long it will take us to reach the snack bar.
“We’ll walk fast,” I answer, and we smile at each other as we feel the wet sand squoosh between our toes, hear the roar of the waves just feet away, and watch the children scream and race back and forth among the froth.
We are ocean people, my mom and I, and we love our time at the New Jersey beach. We talk little during our fast-paced walk. I think of the gritty sand; the gloriously long, non-rushed day ahead; the hot hot sun on our backs. She probably thinks about food and how soon we’ll be at the 32nd Street snack bar.
Finally, 30 minutes later, the lifeguard stand appears. All we have to do now is walk up the beach to the street and the hamburger stand. I glance at my mom, who’s staring at something with a frown on her face. The hot air is waving like a mirage in the desert. The distance to the snack bar looks like a mile. I know in actuality that it’s less than a 3-minute walk, but I also notice the children and adults hopping up and down as they walk toward the street.
“Carry me?” Mom asks hopefully.
“In your dreams,” I laugh back. I begin to walk fast, then I run. The sand is hotter than Hades. It’s burning my feet. I feel like Lawrence of Arabia, only he wore white robes and thick sandals.
I turn to look for my mom. She’s disappeared. Oh My God. Did she get sucked into the burning sand? Where is she? I can’t stand and look. I am seriously getting second- degree burns. I run to the hamburger stand and stop on the small wooden board “walk” they have placed for people in dire straights, like me.
“Mom!” I shout over the roar of people and ocean waves. I see a tiny spot, a shadow, move. Then I see her more clearly. She is standing next to a lone trashcan in the middle of the hot sand.
“There’s shade here! I’m not moving,” she screams at me.
I sigh and run back over the sand to rescue my stranded mother. As I suspect, when she sees me coming toward her, she sucks in a deep breath and races toward me, tears of pain in her eyes. We run together toward the snack bar, and I worry
about her lungs and her heart. I’m almost 30 years younger, and I walk every day for sport. Her face is hot and sweaty and squints in discomfort.
Finally, we reach the boardwalk and hobble toward the snack bar.
“I think my feet are burned,” she says to me, breathing hard.
“I think mine are too,” I answer. We look at each other and start laughing. Two fools are we. I walk gingerly toward the teenager behind the counter to ask for a bucket of cold water for our feet, but first, I have to stop our giggles.
Ah, how we love the beach.