With Sand in My Hair

November 1, 2011
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The light had just started to fade, though it was already 8:30. That’s summer for you I guess. The fire crackled and popped like a cartoon, and the people seated around seemed to contrast the silence from the rest of the campground with their exuberant laughter. Trees etched detailed silhouettes into the fading sky and that same crow started up its nightly screeches. An exceptionally large pop from the flames sends everyone jumping and laughing louder than ever. The younger kids played hide-and-seek tag in the trees giving away their positions due to the glow-sticks encircling their wrists, necks and heads. A line of tents stretched from one lane to another. The ground around each one held the only dry soil around us, product of the huge blue tarps strung from at-least four trees over each one. Ropes draped with damp towels and drying clothes hung from all un-tarped trees and the smells of charred wood, pine needles and wet ground seemed to settle over everyone.

Gigi, a three year old from Colorado, shrieked in mock terror as her twin sister Emmie chased her around with their three-year-old enthusiasm. Jack, and Liam the oldest kids in the group were toting the twins, Cole and Aiden around on their backs. Hanna, Marren, Claudia and Elise, the tween girls of the group crouched in the bushed holding Addie and Owen the six-year-olds of the group on their laps and shielding them from the peering eye of William, ten year old brother of Jack who was ‘it.’ When the shrieking got to loud Nana and Grandpere, two of the four grandparents in attendance would slowly make their way to the rag-tag group of children and shush them with whispered words of other campers sleeping. Soon enough however, the game would begin again and another adult, probably a parent this time, would come and pull the older ones aside preaching responsibility and consideration of others. The adults and older kids, namely Marlo and I, sat around the fire. Conversations ranged from politics to geography to the latest Family Guy episode. Laughter was never far from anyone’s lips and even as heads began to bob with exhaustion there were never long moments of silence because everyone was totally comfortable with everyone else. This little section of Maine was our place; our home away from home where problems melt away like icicles in the spring and drama doesn’t get and closer to home then what’s in the tabloids.

This particular evening was warmer than usual and though it was getting on towards nine o’clock nobody was tired. I slipped over to the fireside and whispered into my mum’s ear, “I’m going down to the beach.”

“Oh, no, you’re not,” came the stubborn reply, “Not without a buddy.”

“Mum! I’m sixteen years old; you’re going to have to let me out of your sight sometime.”

“Maybe sometime, but certainly not now!”

Grudgingly I accepted her conditions and tiptoed over to where Marlo sat, flashlight held in her mouth, deeply absorbed in another one of her books. Marlo agreed to accompany me without hesitation and with my ‘buddy’ in tow, I grabbed my towel and made a dash for it.

Not fast enough! The littler ones had spied Marlo and me in our not-so-stealthy-escape and almost instantly our quiet trip to the beach became a party complete with four adult chaperones and eleven kids. I didn’t mind too much. A little quiet would have been nice (that didn’t happen very often with this crowd) but I loved them all and there wasn’t much I could do about it anyway.

When towels were gathered and children herded out of the camp-sight we made our way down the hill towards the small woods trail that led to the beach. The road was warm on our bare feet and the crickets composed a cacophonous harmony that accompanied us through the woods. Roots seemed to reach out of the ground, trying to trip people and the small brook that ran along the edge of the woods seemed to bubble so much louder than usual. After the woods came the field. Ill cut grass swept up towards our calves and fireflies danced around our ears. The sounds of the waves grew from a constant background noise to a beautiful rhythm and soon everyone’s steps matched up to the tempo of the ocean. As soon as we hit the sand we began to run. Flip-flops were kicked off and sand flew up into the faces of the people behind us but nothing could slow us down now. Having tossed all t-shirts and dresses onto the dunes and wearing only the bathing suits that were still wet from previous beach trips, everyone went pelting down the remains of the sand towards the surging water. Laughter filled the air and it was all the adults could do to keep the younger kids from running off to their own worlds with the hermit crabs and minnows.

It was plenty dark by now and from the beach we could see the flashing of the lighthouse a mile or so away. This particular beach is in a cove so the waves are never larger than two feet high. In what seemed like seconds the sandy area just out of the reach of waves was covered in sandcastles, each one decorated with mosaics of shells and smooth rocks collected by the younger members of our group. The older members were the ones swimming. The tide was high so the slope of the ground under the water was gradual. When we did finally get over our heads, it felt like we were miles away from the beach, though we couldn’t have been more than a few yards. Between the waves we could see the tips of the islands, peaking out about a mile away from shore, and the moon’s reflection on the water looked like something out of a romantic scene from a Disney movie.

This was our place. This magical fairy-land of waves and sand made up a little piece of our world. It is here, in the campground that I learned to ride a bike. It is here that I learned to identify different types of crabs in the tide pools. This place is a part of me. Every year, at the end of August I get reunited with this part of me for three weeks before I have to return to reality. But for these weeks we can decorate sand castles in sparkling mollusk shells and tiny pieces of kelp we find floating in the sea and build walls of sand to protect our teetering palaces from the rise of the tides. I can lay on the beaches for hours worrying about nothing or sprint across the beach with bare feet and sand in my hair.

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