Tag Archives: childhood

Why I Rather Dislike the Beach, Part 1

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.

(AHAHAHAHA.)

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.)

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Mama’s Imagination

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when my imagination abruptly abandoned me, but I remember it being somewhere in the mysterious land of Middle School (though I was apparently lucky enough to hold onto it for so long).

B.L. (Before Loss), I would have trouble getting to sleep, and to pass the time I found imagining myself as the protagonist in some popular or original plot to save the world was much preferable to counting sheep. I would pretend to be a mermaid in the swimming pool. I would spearhead rousing imaginary adventure games on the playground with my fellow students. From the top of the jungle gym I would hoist my make-believe pirate sword and holler, “Take no prisoners!”

A.L. (After Loss), I would attempt to recreate the pseudo-dreamworlds that had made it so easy for me to fall asleep, but I just couldn’t come up with scenarios I was happy with and ended up slipping into sleep silently and dream-less. Pretending to be a mermaid felt childish and uncomfortable. I lost my imaginary sword somewhere under the mounting piles of textbooks and overdue homework.

This was a gradual decline into my bland teen years. Sure, I was creative; I excelled in the arts. I took three foreign languages in my high school years, on top of band, chorus, and orchestra. I passed all subjects with flying colors (except for my art class out of pure spite, which is another story). I had the ability to create, yes, but all imagination was gone. There was no wonder or exploration or “What if…?” It was a watered-down version of my previous imaginary magnificence.

There were probably plenty of other emotional catalysts for the destruction of my imagination, and I could probably spend hours outlining them all, but I think the main problem Рthe Bruté Рwas my intense desire to grow up.

Every kid in the history of ever has probably expressed the desire to be an adult, like, NOW, at least once in their childhood.¬† Once I’d felt I’d grown up enough, though, I looked back at my childhood and lamented the loss of my imagination. I wondered if that was normal for everyone, or if it was just some weight I’d hastily (and mistakenly) discarded to make the ascent to adulthood quicker.

It definitely made babysitting awkward. A three-year-old could ball up some yarn and stick a popsicle stick through it, dip it in glitter, and suddenly they have a roaring torch with which to explore “caves” and “tunnels”, which were often just made of couch cushions and blankets. I couldn’t see the caves; I only saw the couch.

“Look, Mags! It’s a flying dinosaur!”

“….You just threw it through the air, though.”

“No, no! It’s a flying T-rex, see?!”

I probably crushed a few kids’ dreams in situations like that. It’s not that I refused to see, I just couldn’t see no matter how hard I tried. Tyrannosaurus couldn’t fly.

During the months I was pregnant and over-worrying about the future like most parents, I wondered extensively how I was going to kindle my daughter’s imagination when I had none of my own. Could I keep her creative and full of wonder without actually imagining things for her?

In the first year of her life, it was rather easy. Newborns and infants are pretty freakin’ easy to entertain; they like bright or contrasting colors, pretty music, and tickles. And, oh, man, do they love new things. Every time I saw something I didn’t think she’d gotten to explore before, I handed it to her. I talked to her. I described it to her. And when her little chubby cheeks squeeze out a giant grin just for me, I felt something grow in me.

It was impossible to not be inspired by her sense of wonder. Everything was new to her! Things I’d taken for granted for years, like the feel of dew-wet grass on bare feet, or the sound of crickets at dusk, or the tingly cold of a hunk of snow, these things all caused her to laugh and clap.

So when she began toddling (and immediately running), and she lost interest in her rattles and push-toys and started grabbing for the Little People toys and stuffed animals, I automatically handed them over, and I watched.

She put toy cars in the barn where the toy cows were supposed to go. She put dolls in drawers where her clothes were supposed to go. She put socks on her hands instead of gloves, and pants on her head instead of a hat. And the whole time, she giggled and squealed and stomped her little feet.

Today, she’s just over twenty months, and her vocabulary is exploding. It seems to me that she knows a ridiculous amount of words. She’s finally beginning to use sentences.

“Mama, ‘ook! ‘Ook, Mama! Horse is fly!” she cries cheerfully as lifts her toy horse and pretends it’s flying through the air. I laugh and clap with her.

Because of her, I’ve been able to rekindle my childhood imagination. She’s taught me how to be a little kid again just as much as I’ve taught her about the world.

Horses can totally fly.