I'LL NEVER forget my first trip to the beach and the wonderful time we had, although exactly what year that was escapes me now.
We were living in New Hampshire at the time, or maybe New York, and . . . no, I take that back. It was New Jersey. Matter of fact, I'm positive it was New Jersey, because there was a big sign near our house that said: "To Garden State Parkway."
Or "Bridge Slippery When Wet." Whatever.
Anyway, one day this older woman came into the kitchen and said: "How would you kids like to go to the beach?!"
"Hooray!" we yelled, or something like that.
Later we came to find out the older woman was our mother, which was a tremendous relief because I was a little leery about going off to the beach with just anyone.
So the next day, we all piled into the family station, a big old Ford or a Chevy. Could have even been a Buick. I don't pretend to know a lot about cars.
All I know is, it was big, because it seems to me that every time my brother and I went to pull my sister's hair, she got away. Which you can't do in a smaller car, if memory serves.
The drive to the beach took . . . oh, I don't know how long. Say four hours. Or maybe it just seems that long when you're bound and gagged and nobody's talking to you.
I remember passing acres and acres of sugar cane fields. The tall green stalks waved gently in the breeze and the pungent smell of the rich, dark soil was everywhere.
No, check that. Someone just told me they don't have sugar cane fields in New Jersey. I guess they were cornfields. Or soybean fields. Agriculture is not my strong suit.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, we crested a hill or something and there it was! The ocean! I remember it looked sort of blue. Or a bluish-green. Turquoise, I guess you'd call it. Blue out by where the waves broke and green closer to shore.
All that day we splashed in the surf and played in the sand with our little pails and shovels.
It's funny, my brother still argues with me over this. He insists we left our pails and shovels in the car and played with some sticks and a couple of empty beer cans. He also says we didn't go in the water, because there were a lot of jellyfish around. Look, I'm not going to argue about it.
At the end of the day, happily exhausted from whatever we did, we trooped back to the place where we were staying, which was a little bungalow or motel room or campground. But we sure weren't ready to go to sleep.
"Mom," my brother and I pleaded, "can your friend take us to the boardwalk?"
"Boys, that's your father," Mom replied. "You march right over there and ask him yourselves."
Has that ever happened to you? Where you look at a person and, yeah, he looks familiar, but you just can't match a name to the face? Boy, were we embarrassed!
Luckily, this guy everyone was calling "Dad" turned out to have some time on his hands, so we all went down to the boardwalk. Or maybe Mom stayed back at the room. More I think of it, she might have had a bad cold or a sunburn.
Oh, I have such vivid memories of that evening!
I remember walking up and down this . . . this wooden thing while munching contentedly on saltwater taffy. Or maybe it was cotton candy. Is cotton candy the thin, wispy stuff that sticks to your fingers? And then you have to lick them? It is? Well, that wasn't what we were eating. Maybe we were eating hot dogs.
The point is, we really enjoyed ourselves. I even won a giant stuffed animal (I want to say it was a teddy bear, or maybe a camel) playing some kind of game.
Anyway, that's pretty much how it went the next day, and the day after that, and I think the day after that. Maybe a couple more days, too. It might have rained once or twice, but don't hold me to that.
As I recall, the drive home was much shorter, about 45 minutes, through mountainous terrain dotted with huge fir trees. I remember seeing a lot of goats or big-horn sheep, and wondering why we couldn't take one home to live with us, providing he had all his shots and papers.
Not that I was complaining. After all, we'd just spent a lovely week -- or at least a few days -- at this place with a lot of sand and water.
It seems like yesterday.