Saturday, October 17, 2015

Summer Saturdays

Growing up I lived just outside a very small town in Delaware not too far from the Delaware Bay. My very happiest memories are of Saturday trips to Rehoboth Beach where the bay meets the ocean. Sometimes I was allowed to take a schoolmate or maybe my cousins, but even alone as an only child, they were my happiest days. I could always count on finding a friend at the edge of the waves.

The ride through small towns seemed to take forever, thirty miles of anticipation. Depending on the wind direction, about five miles away I could smell the saltiness of the bay in the air and see circling seagulls. Air conditioning consisted of rolled-down windows, and the wet breeze blowing across cooler seawater couldn’t compare anyway.

Saturdays were popular for beach visits and I was the lookout for a parking spot, as close as possible because of all the important things we had to carry. There was the drink cooler, beach chairs, blankets, towels, my transistor radio, a beach ball, and beach bags with important personal stuff. This was where parents became important. UV protection was unknown. I just fried with Coppertone when I thought to use it. Usually I got the job of running to the umbrella guy with money for portable shade, and he would follow me back and plunge the stake into the sand at the spot my mom had chosen to spread our blanket.

Then, at last, to the water, there were waves to ride. Wet, squishy sand between my toes, icy water at first, breakers trying to beat me back out, all memories I wouldn’t trade for a zillion dollars. Not too far out, the ocean floor dropped off, a little trough of broken shells where the breakers washed out the sand. I had to get past this or the breaking waves battered me, but once beyond the drop-off, all the fun began. Waves twice my height or more depending on the calmness of the day rushed toward me. When the wave was exactly the right distance, I had to jump with the buoyancy of the water and ride over it. What a feeling, as though I was tiny and someone was picking me up and slowly letting me down. These days were long before Jaws. No one gave sharks a second thought.

Sometimes, if I forgot to look, a wave would sneak up on me, and I would have to dive into it. Then my knees got skinned up and I might swallow some salt water. I didn’t mind at all. I loved it so much, someone would have to come drag me out even if a thunderstorm came up. I can remember begging to stay in while lightning streaked across the sky. And when I finally did come in, my fingers looked like prunes.

Of course, when it stormed there were always other things to do, the penny arcade, bumper cars, Dolles saltwater taffy, souvenirs to look at, hot dogs, ice cream, colored ices. Rain cooled off the searing heat of the boardwalk and made barefoot walking possible, but sometime splinters were a problem. Who cared about a little rain when a person was soaked already.

The ride home was a whole lot quieter. In fact, I usually slept, only waking when the car stopped in our driveway. The memories of the day returned as I looked at my wrinkled fingers, squirmed in my sand-filled swimsuit, and accidentally touched my sunburned nose. But they were good memories and I could hardly wait until the next Saturday to do it all over again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Another Thanksgiving

The following true story is really about thanks giving, about receiving and knowing how to accept a gift.

Seeing all the decorations in stores for Thanksgiving brings back the memory of a particular one. It was early November of 1993. My husband and my employer ganged up on me to make an appointment with a dermatologist about a mole on my temple that looked suspicious to them. They wouldn't give up, and I finally decided to go.

The doctor barely glanced at the mole before telling me I needed to see a surgeon right away. She made the appointment for that same afternoon, something I thought impossible. The plastic surgeon echoed her words. The very next day he removed the mole and the surrounding tissue and did a skin graft. Just before Thanksgiving I received the lab report. The mole was indeed an invasive malignant melanoma, but thankfully the surrounding tissue was clear.

I had a huge bandage (it seemed huge, anyway) and some stitches. I was very thankful for loved ones and dear friends who would not take no for an answer.

The morning I went for the surgery everything was so poignant. I remember the chill in the air as we raised the garage door. In fact, I can almost feel it right now, the feeling was so intense. As I looked outside, moving soundlessly through the sky, and huge because it was so close, I saw the Goodyear Blimp, in town for the football game the next day. The quietness of it and the chill in the air steadied me somehow.

My daughter had come from a little over eighty miles away to go to the doctor with us. She only had one child at the time, my grandson, Jimmy, who was 2 years old. Of course, she left him at home with his dad. When we got back home from the surgeon’s, she wanted to stay and cook Thanksgiving dinner for us the next day, but all I could think about was the pain I was feeling and how my son-in-law must be climbing the walls by now with Jimmy. So I emphatically said "no", and Jim and I spent a lonely Thanksgiving eating chicken noodle soup.

My point is...why couldn't I have accepted the gift my daughter wanted to give? What a wonderful Thanksgiving it could have been, but I was stubborn and thought I would be putting everyone to a lot of unnecessary trouble. The important thing I overlooked was the happiness it would have given my daughter to be doing something for her mom. She was trying to show her love and support for me, and I actually refused it

I was always taught to give is better than to receive, but now I wonder at the truthfulness of that. Perhaps, to receive a gift can be giving a gift as well. And sometimes it is better to receive than to give. Many times, I think, it’s one and the same thing.