Lulu’s first trip to the beach was yesterday. It just happened to be to a beach on the Mediterranean Sea in the shadow of an ancient fishing village complete with a small castle. The town is called Castiglione della Pascaia which dates to pre-Roman times.
We went with her preschool buddy David and his wonderful mother Pavlina – who was gracious enough to invite us and drive us – past the sunflower fields and round bales of straw of the Tuscan countryside to reach the lagoon and then the hot white sand of the beach.
The sea’s water was warm and clear. The beach was full – but not packed – with friendly families, energetic teenagers, and chatty seniors. Lulu and David splashed in the waves, lounged in the inflatable boats Pavlina brought, ate pasta al pesto for lunch and made an entire sand village under our blue striped umbrella.
Vendors passed by offering to sell bracelets and sunglasses and even knock-off purses. I paid for a kind Senegalese woman to weave a strand of Lulu’s hair with three different colored threads into a bright streamer. All the little Italian girls seem to come back from a trip al mare wearing one of these as a sort of souvenir.
It was a lovely and memorable day. And it made me think back to the beach where I had spent so much of my early childhood, Pine Lake in LaPorte, Indiana. Not the vivid blue of the Mediterranean, Pine Lake was more seaweed green. There were no vendors, no restaurants, no blue and white striped umbrellas and certainly no castle-fortressed villages looking down from above.
Instead, we had a small white clapboard house that my Aunt Neatie and Uncle Dick owned, a long wooden picnic table filled with homemade food and drinks. Fresh lemonade from Aunt May, two kinds of potato salad from Great Grandma Stombaugh, macaroni and cheese and amazing baked beans from my Grannie and fried chicken from Colonel Sanders. My sister and brother and our cousins floated on rafts, swam and played like crazy.
They were also lovely and memorable days. Different and so much the same. Because of love.
P.S. I would love to hear stories of your favorite beach days. Or of those of your children.