Friday, November 7, 2014

An Ode to Childhood Summers on the Delaware Coast

I know.  I haven't been writing.

I have nothing to say in my defense.

Except that I just found this story I wrote for my non-fiction class in college, and I kind of fell in love again.

I'm not sharing the whole thing, because I want to be selfish.  And maybe because my boss has inspired me to enter a short story contest (through which she herself got published this year!  Yay!), and the theme for next year's entries just happens to be The Beach.

I wrote what you're about to read in March of 2004.  It has three parts--the one I'm sharing is essentially an ode to childhood.  The second part considers the longing to return to said childhood.  The third shows an actual attempt to do just that.  And I'm thinking of adding a fourth section, because my whole view on childhood has really been enhanced by, um, having a child.

But for now, here's the first section.  I hope you enjoy.

I know I enjoyed writing it.


I.                    Crest—The portion of a wave displaced above the still water line; the highest point of the wave.

We used to call it “Washing Machine.”

Washing Machine—our very technical term for what happened when the angry gray waves tore our tiny bodies off our fluorescent purple and orange Moorey Boogie boards; slamming us beneath a crashing current, boards flailing about above us, snapping our skinny arms back by the sea-soaked black leashes, sand invading every possible crevice as we tumbled into human pretzel shapes tossed about by the immense power of exploding murky swells, and we came up sputtering and choking, blinking in the bright sun and staggering to our feet above the frothy white aftermath which fizzled around our ankles.

Washing Machine.

And we would gasp for air, and tilt our heads to the side, banging the fists not restrained by the body board leashes against our skulls, in an effort to pound the sand out of our ears.

“Did you see that?” I’d scream to my brothers and best friend Courtney, charging back into the waves.  The taste of salt was overpowering, and I loved it in a way I wouldn’t come to understand until much later in life.  I would gallantly battle to throw my small body past the roaring breaking point, fighting my way back to my fellow adventurers, still rubbing my eyes, or tugging at my bathing suit, or briefly examining and then dismissing the scarlet scraping above my things and knees inflicted by my contact with the furious ocean floor during the last Washing Machine.

Ah, to have millions of grains of sand coat the top of my scalp, clinging to my clumped wet hair, and to not care!  To have the sticky residue of salt water paint my entire sun-bronzed body, and to not want a shower!  To be thrown violently time and time again from the slippery beast that was my Moorey Boogie board, and worry not once about twisting an ankle, or breaking what would become, later in life, my waitressing wrist.

What a wonderful thing, to be young and in love with the ocean.

**After submitting this piece to my professor, Dr. Vince Puma's comments included the most inspiring compliment I've ever received from a teacher.  He wrote, "I expect to see your name in print someday."

It's taking me longer than I hoped, Dr. Puma...

But I am still trying.

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