The playground sits right on the beach. But for a small wall the perimeter would be indistinguishable, as the sand from the beach spills right over under the swings and the slide. It is a small playground, but it never feels crowded. Infinity stretches out all around it.
The boys take off their shoes; they run and slide and dig. After awhile, we pack up the sand toys and put them back in the car, pulling out their scooters. There is a long, paved path that runs along the beach. One path is for bikers and other things with wheels, but my boys use the pedestrian path, since they are so small and their scooters move only so fast. People stop to admire Zachary on his scooter, tiny and proficient, and to laugh as Benjamin stands, both feet on the vehicle, willing it to move.
Zachary himself stops to admire. The skateboarders jump and twist, practicing moves on a plaza just beside the playground. He watches, calculating when he will be old enough to join their ranks.
Then, we pack it all away, scooters and helmets back in the car, as we take it down to basics. We walk to the edge of the water, where the sand is packed and wet. We roll up our cuffs, remove our shoes, and stand at the ready. The first small wave to splash over our feet is shocking, early-April cold. Zach jumps with delight as each wave hits his feet. Ben, however, stands stock-still, stiffening just a little with each cold wash. His eyes are focused; he watches each tiny wave to ascertain whether this one has a chance of making it all the way up to his toes. His lips are slightly parted; not a smile as much as a breath of welcome.
“More,” he says quietly after one wave. He is not speaking to me. He is asking the ocean to keep giving this feeling, the water on top and the sand slipping away underneath.
My grandfather once wrote a poem about going to the beach with my grandmother. “Susie likes to feel the water sloshing,” the final line reads. I think of this poem while I watch Benjamin. Someday he will know the word “sloshing,” and it will be just the word he needs.
The tide is coming in, and we begin lifting the boys out of the water as the deeper waves come up. They giggle and squeal now as we toss them up just in time to avoid wetting the rolled cuffs of their pants. But it is getting late, and it is time to go home for supper.
Zachary complains, not wanting to end his afternoon. Benjamin cries. He is not yet convinced that the ocean is now a part of his life. One day, he seems to fear, it will roll out and never come back in.