Having lived in diametrically opposed climates, I can tell you with some authority that the northern Atlantic smells vastly different from the South Pacific. More educated and scientifically inclined minds than mine could tell you why–probably something to do with the types of plant and animal life in the tidepools. All I know is that I’ve never had a seaweed fight in Hawaii, a wretchedly slimy experience that I haven’t had since the age of twelve and have been overjoyed to not have to repeat.
At any rate, I decided that it was an essential part of the east coast experience to have Maggie numb herself to popsicle-like temperatures in the Atlantic ocean. She liked it so much she punched me in the face.
Touching, no? This was in Rockport, MA, which was frosty indeed. I believe I texted something to the effect of “Sweet mother of hypothermia, it’s cold!!” I got the skin prickles from the water in a way I hadn’t experienced in years; the frost of the north Atlantic with the burn of New England’s fickle July sun.
But it wasn’t the same beach I had grown up with. A few nights ago Maggie had a very late nap and bedtime was looking more and more like a 9 or 9:30 proposition, so around fifteen minutes before her normal bedtime I decided to haul stakes for York Beach. Short Sands and Long Sands were the two beaches I frequented as a child and then as a teenager; saltwater taffy at the Goldenrod, tacky-ass jewelry from Bill and Bob’s, and loads of mucky sand and smooth rocks.
I packed us up lickety-split and the drive over was gorgeous, just past sunset and full of pink and blue over the lovely houses of York Beach. When we arrived, I plopped Maggie down about 100 yards from the water’s edge, right at the runoff point from low tide where little rivulets of warmed ocean water were streaming toward the waves. She looked at me, I looked back at her, and she cocked her head. I responded by jumping up and down and making huge splashes, and that was all the encouragement she needed to crawl toward the shoreline laughing and screaming like a lunatic. We got so thoroughly coated with sand that I’m still shaking it out of her car seat, but with the music at the bandstand and the sunburnt tourists chowing down on fried food, it was perfect: the little slice of arctic-cold Americana that I loved so well for so long.
Though I know she won’t remember this specific outing, I hope Maggie looks back one day and sees through the disagreements and fights we’re bound to have, the differences of opinion large and small, and hold on to the fact that I was the kind of mom who took her to the beach in a pink party dress to get muddy just before bedtime, sand and seaweed and slop be damned.