Junior Ranger

Dear Love Bug,

Mother Nature gave us a gift of a day, and it was so unexpected I felt like doing cartwheels down the beach. We actually got there today, and it was a pretty damn near perfect beach morning. The sun wasn’t beating down or anything, but it was warm (but not hot) and slightly breezy, and the beach was relatively empty because I think the forecast kept people away.

You immediately got your big shovels out and began to dig in the sand, which you’ve been waiting approximately one year to do. Then you played your favorite game of Run Squealing Into and Out of the Water, letting it get as high as your knees. You also made some friends, played badminton and bocce (each for about 5 minutes), and dug for mole crabs (also admittedly one of my favorite things to do). I got hot at one point, which was completely surprising because again, the forecast made it seem like it was going to be the most disappointing beach week ever, and waded past the breakers to cool myself off. You called to me from the shore, so I came back, scooped you up and took you in with me. “I can swim!” you kept screaming above the roar of the water. “I can do it on my own!” Love Bug, your confidence overwhelms me. I love you so much for it. But you can neither swim nor do it on your own. So I flipped you tummy down and let you kick about while I hung onto you pretty tightly. I’m what I would consider an excellent swimmer. I’ve been jumping waves since I was barely bigger than you. But I have a HEALTHY respect for the ocean, and I’m trying to instill it in you, too.

At 11:30, we wanted to get to a ranger-led activity out on the boardwalk behind the visitor center. You put up a little bit of a fight because you really wanted to stay on the beach. But eventually you capitulated and let Daddy carry you across the parking lot to the center. The program had already begun but we were able to catch up easily, and we joined a group of 10 or so people in examining “clues” along the boardwalk of life/death in the marshy salt flats on the bay side of the beach. You stole the show in your loud, adorable, smarty-pants way. You were by far the youngest participant, but you’d blurt out answers to the ranger’s questions or say “Excuse me, Ms. Ranger!” and then ask a question or make an observation. You really seemed to enjoy it, which made my heart happy, because I spent many summers immersed in the ranger programs here when I was (much) younger. Hope we can do many more in the years to come.

I’m exhausted. I’m listening to you sleep-sigh along with the rolls of thunder outside, and my eyelids are getting heavy. We’ll have another big day tomorrow. Night night, my love.

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

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S’mores and Hush Puppies

Dear Love Bug,

Our beach week has been marked by less-than-stellar weather, but there have been a couple of glorious afternoons. And the otherwise gloom certainly hasn’t kept us from eating well. 

On Sunday, after a full day spent rolling in sand and salt, we grilled burgers and dogs on the charcoal drum grill that sits just outside the screened-in porch at Misty Moon. We all ate well, including you, which was a pleasant surprise. You’ve been off “hangaburgers,” as you call them, for a while. But that night, you gobbled yours up (maybe because it was stuffed with cheese and bacon?). 

After dinner, as a special treat, we prepped s’mores–and pulled out our long marshmallow-roasting sticks for the occasion. We’d roast over the still-fiery-hot charcoal in the bottom of the grill. You were so eager to participate, so I told you you could hold one of the sticks and roast a marshmallow on the condition that you never come anywhere close to the grill. You agreed, and I got you set up. You were doing great, with my assistance of course, until I looked up for a second. In that half-moment, you came too close to the grill with your outstretched arm holding the stick. You flinched and jerked your arm back but managed to sear your forearm. 

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard such a wail. It was painful to hear. Daddy and I ran for ice while Nonna scooped you up to console you. You allowed us to ice it until your tears dried, and then you took a deep breath and dove into the s’more we’d prepared just for you. And just like that, the entire incident was over. (Although you have a faint pink horizontal line across your forearm as a reminder.)

I’m sure you’ll roast marshmallows again at some point. It just won’t be anytime soon. 

Last night, we went out for dinner at Etta’s, as is our long, long time tradition. In fact, from speaking with the waitress, we determined it’s approximately a 30-year tradition from the time Nonna and I discovered it in the original location on Ridge Road. This is your third year in a row having a dinner there during our beach week. 

At Etta’s, they bring you hush puppies along with your bread. And you pretty much fell in love. We had them again tonight with our crab feast on the porch (this time from Capt. Zack’s), and you asked for more once you’d gobbled up your ration. You said, “Can I have more of those–what do you call them?”

Island food suits you, I suppose. And that makes me happy. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Back to the Beach

Dear Love Bug,

Here we are, back in our beloved Chincoteague. This year may not be as beachy as years past; the weather looks just ok. But we’ll make do and we’ll still have fun. 

In the late afternoon, after unpacking at Misty Moon, we drove out to Assateague to make sure it was still there. Just kidding (but some years we worry). It’s there, and other than the addition of a bike lane along the road across the island, it’s more or less unchanged. We parked as far to the left as we could, kicked off our flip flops, and ran across the sand toward the water. It was incredibly windy and pretty chilly, so we zipped you into a hoodie. 

After launching a kite–it was great kite weather!–in which you immediately lost interest and retrieving a shovel to ward off a meltdown, you got to work digging, which is your favorite beach pastime. But when you’d had enough of that, you ran toward the water’s edge and absolutely squealed with glee at getting your feet wet. You were jumping and twirling, running up toward the drier sand and then back toward the waves. You’ve found your happy place. 

The next thing we knew, the water–all 65 degrees of it–had lapped your front up to your belly button, and you’d managed to sit down in it as it creeped up the shore from the breakers. I consciously quelled the OCD rising up inside of me and told myself it was fine. 

I continued to do so as you hauled your fully wet self up into the powdery sand beyond the reach of the water and rolled around in it. You became a sandy burrito. A very, very happy sandy burrito. 

It was hard to haul you away from there, but we did. And we stripped you down and let you air dry in the gentler wind near the car until you were clean enough to put on dry clothes (Mother’s Instinct FTW, but it failed to remind me to bring a towel). 

Tomorrow will be a true beach day, and you can dig and jump in the waves to your heart’s content–and to mine, too. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma


Crossing the causeway, having just woken up from your nap.