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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In which I take Menticia and Itxa to the beach.

Last week, when we were walking around killing time while my flat tire got fixed, I'd asked Menticia: "What did you want to do this summer that you didn't get to do?" She'd instantly answered: "Go to the beach."

My heart sank a little because for months when I'd ask, "is your family doing something fun this summer?" she'd say, "Well, we're going to go to the beach." Whether because of the long, long hours her parents work, or the $60-80 in gas the trip requires, it never happened.

So I suggested that this week, her last week before school starts, we could go to Wrightsville Beach and she could take a friend or two. She chose her sister Ixta.

She wanted to leave at 7 am but I said I couldn't make it that early, so we rolled out at 8 and made it to the beach before 11:00, and we parked in one of my favorite parking lots in the world: The one that's right at the end of I-40 if you make one left turn. The road becomes local, crosses a lovely bridge over the sound past a bunch of boats, and then ends because if you go any further you'll be on the sand and then in the ocean.

My kids and I once stayed at the "Silver Gull," a sort of run-down cinder-block hotel, in a room on the second floor with a balcony overlooking this parking lot. We'd sit out on the balcony and watch tous le monde in action: changing into (and out of) bathing suits with various degrees of finesse and modesty, sorting fishing equipment, drinking beer, having arguments and passionate scenes of all kinds. There are happy kids and screaming sobbing kids and there's excitement and exasperation galore and it's just so much fun. So I like parking in this lot and being part of the scene.

The girls had packed methodically and they unpacked the car at a measured pace which quite surprised me. We set up camp under Johnny Mercer's pier and when they were done, it looked like home away from home. (My kids and I were much more slap-dash than this!)

[By the way, I'm furious at Johnny Mercer for CHARGING CASH MONEY to let people walk on the pier. Cheap @#$#%@#%!!! Well, at least he didn't charge us for the use of the sand UNDER his pier.]

We had chairs, and tons of food and drinks and a cooler, and towels and clothes and stuff, and it doesn't sound like much, but it was a fine bivouac.

And then they slathered themselves with sunscreen and refused to leave the shade under the pier for 20 minutes. I thought that was odd because their chances of getting sunburn were minimal, but sadly, they were deathly afraid of getting "darker."

Menticia told me solemnly that when she gets darker in the sun, she never gets lighter again, that she has been getting darker and darker since she was born.

They spent hours swimming and then more hours searching for shells. Itxa tried to get Menticia to go fetch her one of our zip-lock bags - and Menticia was about to go fetch it (and as you can see we were a long way from the pier) - but subversively I said: "You don't have to go, why doesn't she go for herself?" And I joked with Itxa: "You know, I was an older sister, I know this trick." In the end, we all went.

Under the pier near us were seven or eight Japanese guys. They were there all day, just like us. They were girl-watching very intently, all their heads aligned in parallel reminding me of the gulls that stand in a row facing into the wind, except with the laser-like focus Jethro the donkey shows when I appear with his dinner. These guys and their devoted ogling made Menticia and Ixta fall into endless, helpless fits of giggles.

At one point one of the guys clutched his heart and fell into the sand with a theatrical scream. At another point I started laughing cause one of them was taking pictures of some hotties in bikinis and he saw me laughing at him. Busted! Well, we were both busted! He laughed too and said, "THEY [his buddies] made me do it." They buried one of their members all the way to his head in sand and asked me to take a group picture. I wish I'd taken one with my own camera, too.

Though they squabble a bit, the girls are so close. They look so deeply into each others' eyes, it's telepathic communication. It made me wish I'd had a sister. My life would have been different.

Before we left, Menticia said "I want to take a picture of the ocean." Itxa didn't understand why she'd want a picture of just the water, with no people in it.

Then she carefully filled a zip-lock bag with sand to take home.

The girls were intent on finding perfect shells, but I told them I like broken ones better because you can see inside them, and because they have so much character and reflect time passing. (I didn't say, I like them better because they remind me of me, but that's what I was thinking.) So Menticia found me this one and it's going "straight to the pool room."

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