I’ve been to the beach exactly two times in my life and both times involved an extraordinary amount of pain with a dash of embarassment and a heaping glob of sand-butt on the side.
The very first time I was invited, I was eight years old. This was almost two decades ago mind you, so please excuse the pending hyperbole while I try to fill in various fuzzy memories.
My extended family had vacationed in Florida every summer for five years prior and this was the first time the invitation was extended to me. All I’d ever seen of a beach was postcards and pictures in textbooks; my tiny little brain equated it to absolute paradise.
My cousins and I were promised Disney. We grew up on Disney, nearly every second of every day, and the idea of actually GOING there was enough to nearly explode our pixie-dust-filled hearts. For months leading up to the grand excursion we were asked by relatives and acquaintances alike as to our thoughts about our destination, and I’m sure our answers were pure, gleeful gibberish.
After months of hype and a grueling roadtrip, we arrived at our hotel rooms. Within hours, our exhuberance was demolished; the various adults had learned it was “Gay Day” at the park and decided that was just oh-too-much for our little minds to handle.
We begged. We pleaded. We insisted we didn’t care who was holding the hand of whom, but our pleas fell on deaf ears.
That was my first warning this wasn’t the vacation I’d dreamed.
The remainder of that week was a blur of boredom interspersed with hilarity. My uncle permanently scarred me by sticking a severed crab claw upright in the sand; he told me all crabs live just under the surface and if I wasn’t careful, they’d snip off my toes. I almost broke my cousin’s neck by jumping on her in the pool and rendering her unconscious for a few moments. I learned to play a mean game of shuffleboard.
And then, the coup-de-grace: I got hurt.
You don’t know me yet, internet, but I’m a little accident-prone. My loved ones know this, though, and weren’t really surprised when I hobbled up to them, covered in blood.
See, there was a bit of a walk from our hotel to the beach, and once you crossed a road there was a large, old wooden deck to climb before you actually reached the sand. This deck was sun-blistered and wind-worn, and had I the common sense of an adult, I would have worn shoes to cross it. (Guess what happened.)
Yeah. I impaled myself on it.
Well, not quite so gruesome, but I did impale my foot with the biggest splinter humanity has ever seen. I attempted to remove it with the surgical precision only an eight-year-old has (which is to say “none whatsoever”) but there was still a good three inches imbedded deep in the sole of my foot.
Grandma advised me to stick it in the ocean so the salt could clean it, but I refused because, A) OW?! and, B) have you seen the water at Cocoa Beach? Why else would they call it “cocoa”?
My grandpa was a country boy and always carried his trusty pocket knife wherever he went. And, like a true country boy, he used it for everything – cutting an apple, cleaning his fingernails, working a rusty nail out of an old board.
Imagine my terror back at the hotel room when various family members pinned me to a chair and papa set up shop across the coffee table from me to whip out his trusty knife. “It’s gotta come out”, he said, and began cutting. Looking back, I’m surprised no one called the cops. I made an ungodly noise for several minutes, and the door was open to the hotel courtyard for all to hear.
When he finally wiggled out the offending log, I sat sniffling and promptly declared that was the “worst vacation ever”.
My cousin also happened to step on glass the next day, but didn’t have to have the country-style surgery; lucky for her, the glass stayed on the pavement.
Surprisingly I do have a couple of good memories from that trip: getting to watch a sea turtle lay eggs in the dead of night; how the gecko we caught last-minute crawled all over grandpa before hiding somewhere in the hotel room for the next tenants to find; building my first sand castle.
I’ll never not be able to associate the beach with pain, and I’ve still never been to Disney, but I probably wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
(Except tickets to Disney during the gay pride thing.)