Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Life's a Beach

It's been nearly three years since Mike & I moved to land-locked Nebraska, and lately, for the very first time, I've started to miss the ocean a little. The #1 thing we heard from all of our friends on the East Coast when we told them we were leaving was "Won't you miss the ocean???" and we always said, "ehhh... I don't think so." And I haven't, really. Houses under $200k have a funny way of dampening nostalgia.

But at last, my inner beach bum has begun to stir a bit. If anything it's surprising it took this long - after all, I grew up on an island. My life practically revolved around the beach in the summer. When I was very young, going to the beach was the main way that my mom and her friends with young children socialized during the warmer months. I have a very early memory of swimming underwater, close to the shore - something I learned to do before I could even properly doggie paddle.

In the 80s we used to go to a beach we called Jetty Beach, in Oak Bluffs, so called because stone jetties bordered it on either side. We went there because it was not as crowded as other parts of the shoreline on Martha's Vineyard - and also because it was in walking distance of a public restroom - needed because in those days, we would spend the entire day at the beach - from just after breakfast until almost dinnertime.

In the 90s, I suddenly realized Jetty Beach was gone. Erosion had chewed away at it until only the boulders along the wall were left, and a thin strip of sand at low tide. As an adolescent I realized that it was uncomfortably close to the ferry - that is, not close enough to be dangerous, but certainly close enough for me to wonder if we had been swimming in diesel fuel. Hmm.

In the late 80s, my dad and uncle bought a boat together, and this took over our summers as our main form of entertainment. We occasionally went tubing, but mostly we loved to take the boat from the harbor near our house, out over the ocean, and into a lagoon where we could park at an uncrowded, quiet stretch of beach to relax and swim. (I will confess that I was mildly terrified of being out in the rough ocean on the boat.)

As a teenager, of course I sadly fell prey to self-conscious desires to be cool and not be seen in a bikini, so my beach attendance fell off somewhat in summer months. But once I could drive, I found that the beach was a great place to indulge in teenage angst, especially in the winter when no one was there. I would often drive to the seaside to park and write embarrassing, tortured diary entries with only the Atlantic Ocean as my witness.

When we lived in Boston, Mike and I rarely made it to the beach, but we did drive down to Nantasket Beach in Hull a few times. On one of our first dates, we went to Nantasket, bought a kite and flew it on the beach, and went for a quick swim in the frigid ocean.

Right before we left Boston forever, we lived for a month in a rental house practically right on the beach in Winthrop (where we later had our wedding). The house was a true bachelor pad, with plastic lawns chairs for interior furniture, but we only had to step out the back door and walk 25 feet up a wooden boardwalk to be on the beach. Winthrop's only flaw is that it's close to Logan Airport, so planes would fly close overhead. At night they were amazing to see. Russell loved going out to beach every evening to play ball and run around (although he never did like swimming).

Now here we are in Nebraska. Nebraska has some rivers (the Missouri, though, is an ugly brown puddle in these parts), and it has man-made lakes. There are a surprising number of beaches local to Omaha, some of them very attractive, but of course nothing really compares to the ocean. I look forward to someday taking our child to Martha's Vineyard to play on the beach - I would hate for my kid to grow up never having seen the ocean (imagine!). Recently I have even become nostalgic enough that when I stop to really remember, I can almost smell that salty air.


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