That’s my sister’s foot on the far right side of the picture. I think I may have cropped her out when I saved the shot, although you shouldn’t read too much into that. I think I just wanted a picture of just Dad and me, playing in the sand.
I may be four years old in that picture, give or take a year. I don’t remember much about being four, but I have vivid memories of heading to the beach as a family. We would find parking in lots whose pavement sizzled from the heat and we would walk, bundled down with chairs and coolers and beach balls, for miles until we found that perfect spot. Miles.
Once we were settled in our spot, blankets spread out, I would run up to the edge of the water to watch the breaking waves and to tease my toes with the cool, white foam that ran ashore. The water always was too cold to just dive in, so I would run back and forth, going in a little deeper each time, Mom and Dad never far away.
At some point, I would beg Dad to start digging a hole in the sand. I don’t know how this tradition started, but I looked forward to the “sand forts” my dad would build. He’d dig these enormous holes and then add sandy benches and chairs where we could settle down and watch the waves. From our fort, we would plan the building of castles and moats. We’d contemplate lunch and ice cream treats.
Looking at this picture now, I’m not sure just how enormous those holes actually were, only that I loved those forts and my Dad for building them. The long shadows hint at a setting sun, the better part of our day spent playing in the sand.
I don’t know if I remember packing up — or if all the times of packing up, both when I was a child and when I had children of my own, have been condensed into a single memory. I do remember the sea air and sand, gritty on my skin, and the heat on the soles of my feet. I remember that sun-drenched tiredness that comes at the end of such a day and the way the vinyl of the car’s seats would stick to my thighs. I remember not being able to keep my eyes open on the way home. I barely remember drifting into the deepest sleep.