Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mom's Playing Hookey

Portable hammock chair?  Check.  Fully-charged cellphone?  Check.  Tote bag packed with sunscreen, water, protein bars, books, pens?  Check.  Purse?  Check.  I gave instructions to the kids before school:  "Do NOT go to the nurse with anything less than broken bones today.  Mom's playing hookey at the beach."

I was always fond of the ocean, but my feelings grew a few summers ago when we vacationed in Cape Cod.  The ocean breeze cooled the hot flashes that had signaled the start of menopause.  The roar of the waves distracted me from the tinnitus I've lived with most of my life and made the slight hearing loss I'd been struggling with less noticeable.  I mean, no one speaks softly at the beach.  My love became voracious this summer during a trip to San Diego, which is my idea of Heaven On Earth.  There were so many pristine beaches, each more beautiful than the last!   I stood on the shores of Torrey Pines, willing my senses to memorize every sensation. The combination of sun, surf, and sand was intensely cleansing.  Leaving California was painful.

Unfortunately, my children do not share my love of the beach.  They tolerate it at best.  Although they love each other, thrown together, without video screens to distract them, my kids spend much of the time at the Shore fighting.  My husband, who enjoys the beach, though not as much as I do, tries to distract the kids, but it's no use.  It's no fun.

So when school started, I announced that I was going to take at least one day a month to see the ocean.  The much-maligned Jersey Shore is about 90 minutes from my house, too far for my taste, but close enough to make it back in time to pick up my daughter.  Crowded and obscenely expensive during the summer, it becomes quiet is free in the off-season.  Parts of it are breathtakingly beautiful, depending on how far from the New York area you want to go.  The place I go has a new pavilion, rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy, with clean bathrooms and street parking.  It's frequented by older people and mothers carrying toddlers, so there are just enough people around in case anything was to happen but not enough to mess with serenity.

Peace is mine there.  Most often, I sit on a chair at the pavilion and read or write.  Then I take off my shoes and schlep my bag to the edge of the water.  Sometimes I wade in, the waves licking at the bottom of my capris.  Then I sit...and remember other times when I've been at the ocean.  We went to Ocean City, Maryland for a few summers when my son was little.  There, I gazed at the ocean and dreamed of the baby girl we were adopting, so far away, across the water, in China.  I remembered, when I was single, the many cruises I took, by myself, not to meet anyone but just to experience the vastness of the ocean.  I remember other trips I've taken and beaches I've been on in Hawaii, Florida, Singapore, Italy, England, and Jamaica.   I smile, thinking of my honeymoon in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands; my husband and I lieing in a hammock, looking out at the ocean, and planning our future together..

It's good that the kids don't like the ocean.  It's MY space, one the kids at present cannot appreciate.  With only a simple tote bag as luggage, my day is a mini-vacation, the ocean a retreat.  Playing hookey there is like medication for my soul, soothing it and making me a calmer mother and a better person.  It is my gift to myself. 

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