"Baby!" was the cry I heard from across the sand dune where I was huddled against the wind. It was my brother-in-law Paul. I don’t take that kind of abuse from most people but Paul has a way of making a sarcastic chiding remark into an endearing affirmation of my greatest weaknesses. In this case, I was freezing and had bundled myself up with two t-shirts, a hooded sweatshirt, and fleece lined windbreaker my dad had found in his truck. It was August in Washington State and we were spending the day on the beach of the Pacific Ocean outside the city of Westport. It was a beautiful day – the sun was shining, the inland temperature that day was somewhere in the mid-to-upper eighties but out on the beach with the wind blowing – it was downright frigid.
Not that my kids minded of course. Or their two cousins, Lauren and Isabel. As soon as we arrived, they jumped out of the trucks, pulled off all the clothes that they had on over their swim suits and jumped right into the surf. I got out of the car and drew in my breath at how cold it had become. Holy cow – we were supposed to spend the whole day here! How was I going to manage when I couldn’t stand five minutes of the breeze? I’ve always been a ‘cold wuss’ as labeled by Paul, my twin sister, Denise and my husband, Tom. No grace given by these guys. I admit, I am a little timid of cold swimming pools – I take about an hour to get in above my waist, chilly movie theaters and restaurants – not that I see much of either these days, and I sleep under a warm blanket in sweats and socks even during the summer months because we over air-condition our house.
In my defense, this was the Pacific Ocean, not the Gulf of Mexico where we would normally beach it or even the lakes around Austin. I did some checking and according to the US National Oceanic Data Center Coastal Temperature Guide,the ocean temperatures recorded for locations along the WA coast were in the 50 to low and mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit during August. That’s crazy cold, only a nut would get into that water above the toes.
I tried moving around a bit to stay warm – mostly to chase Caroline down. Even with a beach that stretched miles upon miles in each direction of the same sand, shells, and sadly, trash – she just had to be as far from our encampment as she possible. Caroline spotted someone riding a horse and proceeded to follow them for at least 10 minutes without looking back before she had to be reigned in and turned in the opposite direction. That excursion got my blood pumping at the very least.
I was counting the hours til we could say goodbye to this Pacific paradise and head back inland to where the air was warm and dry instead of windy, cold, and salty. I wore sunglasses to protect my eyes for awhile until the layer of salt became thick to see. I stayed downwind, in the protection of the truck to shield me from the relentless blowing.
Meanwhile, Danielle and Travis played for hours in the surf, digging and riding in an inner tube. Lauren and Isabel searched for shells and sand dollars (they came home with quite a pirate’s booty of those) and then they proceeded to bury Travis up to his neck in the sand. I feared frostbite for them but was told once again by my family to stop being such a wimp. Caroline was like a little breaded veal cutlet, complete with a sand beard and mustache. Sabrina kept throwing chips at the birds and chasing them around the dunes hoping in vain to bring home a new pet. Every now and then, the kids would dive into the back of my dad’s truck to have a snack or drink and warm up. Then, they were back at it again, playing hide and seek in the dunes or chasing after the enormous dogs people would bring to walk at the beach.
There wasn’t a huge crowd at the beach – certainly not the numbers we would see down in Corpus Christi or South Padre Island. More people like me, I suppose, too sane to brave the elements. I am convinced that living down in Texas these past 20 years must have thinned my blood. This must be a common occurrence, though, because there is a large population of seniors residing South Florida. The average age is somewhere around 85, so surely I'm not the first to experience this phenomenon.
It's hard to imagine that I am actually looking forward to my 40th birthday. I will celebrate it next June with my twin sister and our husbands (but sadly, without our kids). When I was younger, it was such a bummer to have to share the spotlight and birthday cake with my sister. We could never agree on the décor or kind of cake. Now, it is an excuse for a getaway to Cozumel and a real tropical beach vacation. No hooded sweatshirts for me – just lots of white sand, fruity cocktails and clear blue water. Should take the edge off hitting that milestone age – I don’t expect anyone will be calling me a baby then. Cheers!