July 23, 2012
Well, we’re winding down our summer beach vacation, one that just my husband and I took without our children. This was a first. We needed it for several reasons, but we will both still say unequivocally that we’ve missed having our kids around. They just make everything more urgent, more fun, more entertaining.
We spent a lot of time relaxing on the beach, and as you all know, the beach is a fabulous place to people-watch. I was struck early on in this adventure by how much fun it is to watch other people’s children and the goofy things that they do with sand and water. We watched a young boy and girl literally burying their heads in the sand. Two future politicians there, I’m willing to bet.
We watched little ones first marvel at the sand in all its forms – dry, wet and packed, and just wet enough to build a great castle. Then of course, those same little ones learned that they could throw that sand and get the desired reaction every time: screaming, eye rubbing and calls for “Mama!”
My absolute favorite things to watch while we’ve been here (and we’ve been here long enough to watch two waves of vacationers arrive, leave and be replaced on the customary Saturday check-in/check-out chaos) are dads with their sons. Watching them reminds me of years not too far in the past with my own family.
There’s something about the hot sun, waves and sand that brings out the kid in a lot of dads. Well, beer probably has a lot to do with the age regression, also, based on what we’ve seen this trip (again, we’ve been there). So many times we’ve watched impossibly thin, well-muscled boys say, age 12 or so, run along the edge of the water, throw a skim board out in front of them, jump on the board and ride it for as long as they can before falling or jumping off – again, impossibly graceful.
Their dads would take notice, then become more interested, then gather along the water’s edge to cheer on their sons, encourage competition (drinking beer the whole time, mind you. It’s 5:00 at the beach all day, every day, apparently), and before you know it, dad is holding the board and mom is pre-dialing 9-1-1.
We have watched dads throw the board, run alongside it and jump on just to come to a screeching halt as the board dug into the sand. You see, a 45 year old man weighs a bit more than a 12 year old kid. The board stops; the man continues flying at the same pace for a few brief seconds before he ungracefully hits the sand, feels around for injuries, slowly gets up and tries it again.
We watched one dad, the hero of the group as far as I’m concerned if for no other reason than his level of creativity, win the “That’s a Really Bad Idea But I’m Going to Do it Anyway” award. This dad wasn’t satisfied with simply hurting himself like all the other dads were doing. This dad built a ramp made of a lot of sand and angled on top with a skim board. The entire time we watched this dad building his masterpiece, we kept saying, “Surely not. No way.” His wife kept looking over her shoulder at him and shaking her head. His children, six boys, cheered him on, working him into a lathered frenzy.
Then the moment of truth arrived. Dad backed up, admiring his monument to beach vacation warriors everywhere, then picked up his skim board. He watched the waves with a practiced eye, polishing off the last of his beer and building up a bit more liquid courage before sailing his way, surely, into the record books.
The perfect wave lapped along the sand, cresting just enough to support the grown man’s weight as he built up speed, building to the crescendo of scaling the ramp and getting great air. His boys cheered. Total strangers cheered. His wife turned her back, obviously angry at Dad.
The man actually did fly up the ramp and, for a brief moment, onlookers held their breath as everyone, for a split second, believed. His skim board, with his feet firmly planted, did become airborne. And then came the part he hadn’t quite thought out. The wave had receded. The man, looking for water, leaned forward a bit too much on the board, tipping the front of it downward. That’s not a good thing on a skim board.
The flying missile with the man aboard landed nose-down in the dry sand, buried a good 6-8 inches deep, stopping all forward motion immediately, Dad, however, still had a good head of steam going. He landed face-down, slightly rolled onto his right shoulder, and didn’t move at all once the excitement was over. His wife rushed to him, his boys were elated, and onlookers were asking, “Is he O.K.?”
It’s all fun and games until someone’s hauled off to the hospital, isn’t it?
Don’t worry. Dad was O.K., suffering a mere dislocated shoulder. At least that’s what the scuttlebutt around these parts was, and supposedly that came straight from the attending EMT.
We’re packing up right now to head down to the beach for a day. I made sure my iPhone is fully charged, just in case someone tries to top the now legendary “Ramp/Ambulance” stunt.
I have a similar story that involves a Florida water park, my husband and an daring jump intended to increase speed, but I promised I wouldn’t divulge specifics.
Do you have any vacation stories to share, maybe about dads who regress back to their younger years around water?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. Her next book, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear,” is eagerly expected in Fall 2012.