Walking to the beach tonight for fading-daylight boogie boarding – our new ritual for our new neighborhood. A street corner we pass reminds Aaron of a story. “One time when Daddy, Emmett and I were going to the beach, a lady in a glittery pink shirt was standing there, in front of the post office, and you could see ALL of her boobs, and she asked us if we could give her a ride somewhere.”
Welcome, my friends, to Venice.
I’m supposed to have something to say to him at this point, I think. Something to help make sense of what he saw, and also of the homeless man shouting, “Say Hello, asshole!” to passersby, or of the unexpectedly friendly and moderately drunk transient we will pass a block later, who will see us four with boogie boards and will tell us that the waves look good tonight, that the water is warm. “Thanks,” we’ll call back politely.
Back to the glittering boob lady, I got nothing. I shake my head. “Aaron,” I say, “I can’t wait to ask you in ten years what all this was like for you.” He doesn’t miss a beat. “Weird, Mom.” He’s smiling.
We get to the beach and every crazy thing we passed on our way doesn’t matter. Soft sand kisses our soles, breezes blow away the burdens, and we race to the ocean.
I stop as soon as my feet touch the cold water, but Aaron continues, charging the waves. Emmett and Christopher follow him in with gusto. This is their place, the three boys of my family. I stand at the edge, watching, crossing my arms, noticing my goosebumps. I am cold, but I look up and down the coastline and the scene takes away some of the edge I always feel.
I always feel on edge, always worrying about things that could kill my kids. Slowly or quickly. Sugar is toxic, did you hear? Carcinogenic. Plastic water bottles, too. Video games atrophy their brains and muscles, deprive them of Vitamin D and outdoor play. Global warming is a fait accompli. Weirdos lurk.
Enough. I’ve had enough. I inch forward into the Pacific. I crave saltwater, want to salinate my bones and cells. Wash away the worries.
The water feels better now. Christopher sees me closing the gap and asks, “Do you want to try the boogie board?” I am about to decline, to play my assumed role of sidelined watcher, then I catch myself and say, “Yes.”
And whoa damn nelly! Are you kidding me? I’ve been missing THIS?? I catch a fast one and scream Yeehaw like a rodeo princess, nearly wiping out a toddler, and end up beached on the shore. I didn’t know how fun this would be. I look to my left and see Aaron beached next to me, beaming a smile back at me, carried on the same wave.
There’s only a few days left of summer vacation, but I tell my boys that summer isn’t over until we say it is. I’m just getting the hang of it.