Summertime, children, and the beach – for some reason these three things always go together in my mind.
For many years, my husband and I packed the car as soon as school was out for the year and drove through the night to Ocean City, Maryland with our sons asleep in the back seat.
Here we joined my parents, sisters, nieces and nephews, an uncle and, usually, a family friend or two for a week long family reunion.
When you realize that for most of these years we lived as close to Panama City, Florida as seventy miles, you will understand just how special these reunions were to us.
The year Great-Aunt Lillian, who was actually my father’s cousin, joined us from England, one of my sisters wrote a mystery play that was based on the Clue game for all of us to enjoy. Each of us dressed like the character we had been given and played our part throughout the assigned day.
I was Miss Scarlet, decked out in red, and the card I had received ahead of time stipulated that I must be seen lunching with Great-Aunt Lillian and my mother at a specific restaurant during the day of the play.
Somewhere, I still have a picture of my oldest son – then a teenager – with his hair spiked in a punk, beads draped around his neck, and biker’s sunglasses shielding his eyes from the glare – perfect for his assigned role as a punk rocker.
After dinner that evening, we all said our lines and then tried to guess who the murderer was amidst much laughter and silliness. It was great fun!
When my sisters and I were little, our uncle had always given us an unbirthday party whenever we visited him at our grandmother’s.
Realizing that I had many nieces and nephews who lived far away, thus causing me to always miss their birthday parties, I decided to resurrect my uncle’s tradition. Besides, I thought, an unbirthday party would be a great way to keep so many children happy in the heat of the afternoon.
One year I brought with me a stack of unused paper grocery bags, construction paper, scissors, glue, and crayons, so that each child could make a bag mask before opening their birthday gift that was wrapped – you guessed it – in a brown paper wrapper.
Here again, there are pictures of all of us lined up with our masks on, looking very silly, but again having lots of fun.
We had caviar for breakfast, a full British tea at least once during the week, ice cream sundaes in real ice cream parlor dishes, and crabs to crack open for dinner.
Reading was in, cousins bonded with each other, and my brother-in-law jogged all the way to Delaware (only a mile away) every morning.
TV was out, except for the summer Olympics.
Another year we made angel Christmas tree decorations out of various types of macaroni, glued together and spray-painted white. When we arrived home with our treasures, we realized they all were positioned in the same pose taken by the U.S. gymnast we had been watching, as she prepared to win her gold medal.
Today, Annie Acorn Publishing uploaded another beach memory onto Amazon for your pleasure.
Titled The Magic Sand Dollar, the book was written by me for my young nieces and nephews on a day at the beach when it turned out to be rainy.
I can still see their just-scrubbed faces focused on me as I read them the story – the pajamas they wore displayed like a colorful rainbow before me.
That was many years ago.
Recently, one of my nieces – now grown and a mother herself – mentioned the story, and I thought that I should share it with others.
Perhaps you, too, will read it to a fresh-faced child, wearing their pajamas that show brightly against their sun-browned skin after a day on the beach.