3:30 AM. You wake up. You take 30 minutes to make coffee, brush teeth, finish packing and spend your morning with the person you love. At 4 AM, you carry your kids from their beds through the dark into their car seats. The sun is somewhere beyond the hills, not ready to wake up yet. The kids are excited. They know what today is. They’ve been excited about it all week.
Google says the ocean is 3.5 hours away. Realistically, you know it will take at least 4. You have kids and an aging sedan. Both will need to stop for fuel. After you watch the sky brighten… after you exhaust the oranges, pop tarts and pretzels. After you get on the wrong highway and go 10 miles out of your way. After the kids almost think they’re not going because they’ve been in the car so long. The windows come down and the smell of salt fills your lungs. The smell is as thick as the marshland around you and the beach beyond that.
You drive for 15 more minutes, looking for parking. Finally you settle for a private lot. You take out your change can and thank the attendant generously. Between crumpled dollar bills, dollar coins and quarters (lots and lots of them) you get a ticket to park. The parking system is a cash based economy, and you’re ahead of the times.
You change. You change your kids. You layer on sunscreen like your life depends on it. Your kids are Vermonters with European ancestry.
Your beach tent is a hassle. You wonder why you even brought it. Luckily, the kids see this as a time to play in the sand. By the time the day is done, every inch if everything is covered in minute crystals. That shit will stick around for weeks.
You chase your kids down to water line. The heat of the sand burns the bottom of everyone’s feet, so you run fast. The water is a “New England Cold”. Dunkin Donuts couldn’t warm up that water. The kids don’t care though. They run in up to their ankles. They run out. They run in, they run out. They repeat until they’re waist deep. They flail their arms and scream and splash. They make memories. Your wife dumps a bucket of water on you and you can’t catch your breath.
You swear revenge.
The beach starts to fill in. This is the perfect cross section of humanity. There are skinny people, fat people, old, young and everywhere in between. There are couples and singles and friends. There are people speaking different languages yet laughing as one.
There are 10,000 people. The seagulls still outnumber us.
You eat, you play, you watch your children have an amazing time. Waking up early, counting out change, driving. Everything you do is worth seeing them have fun.
You have fun.
You pack up and head out. Leaving the area, you examine your sunburns. You reminisce from only hours ago. You look forward to your bed, knowing you’ll pass out as soon as you hit the pillow. As the salt smell leaves the car, you roll up the windows and the kids are already asleep in their seats. You look over to your partner in crime, hold their hand. You both agree, all in all: a good beach day.