Thursday, April 23, 2009

On the Beach


How fast can you say, "she sells sea shells by the seashore" without getting your tangue all tongled?

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (and below the Mason Dixon line), our three children, my Dear Professor and all his books, and I lived in a huge city about 2 hours drive from the beach. My Dear Professor's sister, The Counselor, her spouse, The Wild Cajun, and their three children lived several hundred miles south of us, also located about a 2 hour drive from the beach.

Our visits to south Texas always included wonderful family meals (MeMom, my Dear Professor's mother, was an incredbile cook), family stories and jokes from Uncle Bern, going to the movies with Aunt Mellie, a trip to the ranch, and a day when The Wild Cajun and My Dear Professor would find something important and manly to do while The Counselor, our combined six kids, and I would pack a picnic lunch and drive to the beach. We built sand castles, chased waves, went swimming and all other sorts of beachy things.

mustang beach
(4 of our 6 combined kids and The Counselor, my sister-in-law)

But the high point of the trip was always wading out to a shallow sand bar and looking for sand dollars.

Sand dollars come in all sizes. The souvenir stores had some gigantic ones. But the sand dollars native to this stretch of the Texas coast were less than a half dollar in circumference (there was a time, my dears, after crossing the prairie in covered wagons but before the psychedelic 70s, when US currency included 50 cent coins which were larger than the familiar 25 cent ones). The waves tossed and battered these fragile treasures, so it was a treat to find them intact.

When we had plundered the sand bar of all the sand dollars we could find, our attention turned to the various shells on the water's edge, or an occasional crab claw or hermit crab desperatedly trying to get back to the gulf. A few times we discovered tiny star fish, and created special little pools near our castles to scientifically examine them in a "natural" environment.

As the day wore on, and we wore out, we visited the public showers to remove the sand and grit which now covered everything, and to rinse off our booty. Now, by booty I mean treasure or plunder, as in pirate, not a body part. (although I am sure that pirates possessed that body part.). We brought our shells home and enshrined them in glass jars.

When we moved to the Frozen North, I brought with me a few jars of the gifts from the sea that the children (yes, and me too---especially me too!) had kept as souvenirs of those sunny days on the beach with their cousins. The intricate shell patterns and varying sizes and colors still fascinate me.


Holding them in my hands, I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and hear the waves crashing on the beach behind the delighted squeal of children's voices announcing their discoveries. Those were wonderful days. Those are wonderful memories.

Anyone out there game for a picnic on the beach?