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Visit to the Beach

From: New England Review
Volume 34, Number 3-4, 2014
pp. 372-373 | 10.1353/ner.2014.0000

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Ah the water was wet, and warm! Baby loved the stones popping on the sand when the water pulled away into itself. Well, the new father loved the wet popping stones. And the deep blue tumbling over dark blue under a glowing wide sky, half as blue and weightless. The new mother said aren’t those sailboats a little far out. The new grandfather asked is the world too much with us. The new father said don’t let a pelican carry him away. They sat down, three in a row, four to be perfectly exact. Baby nursed. The shadows of birds flew by on the sand, silent, prehistoric. The new grandfather wanted to know their first memories of the beach. The new mother couldn’t remember but she could remember her first memory: seeing the moon-and-stars mobile twist above her crib. Oh and the cradle the new grandfather had made out of wood. What was notable about it asked the new father and she said I don’t know, I was a baby. Maybe that he made it. The new grandfather remembered the lashing wind and salt tight air. He was so excited by the ocean, he was a boy, he couldn’t contain himself, he ran in in his socks. Right there he pointed. Somewhere over there. It’s funny said the new father how many different memories get compressed into one, or to none. I have an overall impression of a first visit based on so many trips to the beach but no true first visit. He remembered his family trundling the hot dips of sand for a spot for their chairs. And sandcastles, built with toy pails and plastic shovels, though mostly he dug holes that wouldn’t stop filling with water. And once, getting stung on the toe when he joined the crowd around a huge dead jellyfish. But they must have vacationed in Florida before moving there, so he thought his first true visit was spent sifting colored bits of shell in the surf behind Sandy Shoes Motel, now gone. As often as the new father went to the beach, he never understood what the ocean was doing there. Why an ocean? He said what’s it doing here? Baby’s eyes were open. The new grandfather said it would be sacrilege not to get your feet in the water. He set his socks and boots aside and stood cuffing his pants like shirt sleeves. The new mother smiled down with a face. Like a catcher the new father squinted and threw stones at a far off wave, or landing, he imagined, on the tiny tanker frozen at the horizon. Or on the brown rounded backs of kelp he wanted to mistake for sea beasts. The water was wet but cold! And climbed and darkened the new mother’s skirt. The new grandfather said it would be sacrilege not to get his feet wet his first time at the beach, so the new father dipped baby toes deep in the foaming breakwater once, twice, and again, and he seemed to consider it. His surprised eyes and Gerber mouth considering it. Of course we were once fish, or something like that. First we’re born of fluid, born into fluid, and only then born to air. You need only go in the ocean, swim in any ocean, water knocking and holding you like the womb to know it. Baby nursed. Baby slept. The new grandfather told the story of moving away from the coast, when the new mother was a newborn, and they packed everything they owned in an old Ford with a camper shell, got on the highway and ran out of gas. Walking the shoulder, hoping for help, he saw a family of swallows wheel across the sky. In the dusky light, the purple birds looked black and sharp as bats. There was a whole family of families. Their strange honeycombed nests caked on the side of an overpass and when he drew closer for a look at what they were made of, more birds dove from every hole cutting at his head. What were they doing asked the new father...



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