Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wave function

The Boy is the definition of body in motion. He sprints to the incoming water, then at its edge spins back like the gulls overhead calling for snacks. He races and beats the wave up to the dry sand; the retreating ocean takes his footprints with it as a consolation. He celebrates briefly with a yelp and is off again. Repeat pretty much ad infinitium.

Q stands and waits for the ocean to come to her until it disappears the beach up to her ankles, and then, gripping my fingers at first, she sits and lets go to clap a splash up over her smile. The pull back is strong — dragging earth and shells and thoughts out to somewhere down and black — but Q won't go. She enjoys leaving the memory of her resistance in the saturated sand. I stand a little ways behind her all set to snatch her up if a wave comes in high and fast, which, since I'm in Active Parent Mode, seems always about to happen. Since Q is, well, Q — viz., small and tenacious and mighty — I only have to come between her and the ocean a few times.

The day itself is faultless. After weeks of city heat, the air feels cool and light, the ocean and the sky competing for bluest abyss, with the sky barely winning because it has no bottom. There are no clouds to suggest anything. The sand heats up our feet but not too much, and the water proves warm and easy to be in.

We’ve come to this beach, a gorgeous hem of sand on the Jersey shore, in a rented car. We don’t have one of our own, haven’t had one for thirteen years now, and the trip itself (even in a Ford Focus) therefore almost suffices as the event for Q and The Boy. Almost. They love the beach, and our destination is what really keeps them from rioting in the back seats as we crawl in traffic down the Garden State Parkway and through a small town that from the inside looks nowhere near a coast.

This trip has them even more excited because we're meeting close friends there, friends my wife and I knew before weddings and kids came about. Their oldest (will call him 'D') is nearly six now, and our son can't get enough of him. It's understandable — The Boy, like D, is into soccer and bikes and instantiates the irrepressible physics of boy bodies. Watching D out in the waves makes The Boy brave, and as the day grows he leaps into taller and taller water, and when knocked down he pops back up and rubs his face laughing.

Our friends' two daughters always catch Q's attention, too. When she can't see them, she asks after them, and J (the older daughter) watches over her like a big sister, holding hands, just being close. She loves it. G, the other sister, talks now and then to all manner of characters on a pink toy phone — "Hello? Cinderella? I'll get back to you" — and let's Q place some important calls as well, likewise princess related.

When we leave, no one denies it's time to go. Our friends have parked in the opposite direction, so after all the kids have been ushered through the concrete bathrooms, we kiss and hug and shake on the busy boardwalk. The Boy doesn't get too sad so I know he's really tired, and he confirms my suspicion in the car not long after we drive off to New York. Q falls asleep even before that. My wife and I wonder to each other in the quiet why we don't do this more often.

The beach stows away home with us, in our hair and our clothes and our heads. (And all over and in the rented Ford, but they can worry about that.) Later that night and many times since, The Boy asserts that he wants a kid surfboard.

I want them — and us — to sleep this well each night.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic post. I could feel the gritty sand and taste the salty water just reading it. My favorite line: "the retreating ocean takes his footprints with it as a consolation." While I think The Boy with his lanky and agile figure may always out-sprint the waves, I'm sure the ocean, as well as many of us, will always have to take consolation in battles against the tenacious Q.


Nadine said...

Beautiful post! Very well written. AND gorgeous pictures.

It makes me want to go down to the beach. If it wasn't pouring outside :)