Every time the weather warms up even a hair, most of my friends immediately start talking about going to the beach.
When I was a teen, my friend Alice, who had her driver’s license, and I hung out at the beach every chance we got. But as I grew older, the seashore began to progressively lose its appeal to me.
It’s not that I don’t like the ocean or a cool sea breeze, especially on a hot summer day. It’s just that at times, it’s pretty difficult to find either one at New Hampshire’s public beaches. The last time I went to Hampton, the beach was so crowded, it made Times Square on New Year’s Eve look like an intimate gathering.
I remember how my husband and I searched for an hour before we finally found a postage-stamp sized space on the sand and wedged our towels into it. I sat down and began to rub sunscreen on my legs, which wasn’t easy, considering I had only about an inch of elbow room. Suddenly, as I was applying the lotion, my leg went completely numb.
“Ohmigod!” I cried out. “I’ve lost all the feeling in my leg!”
“That’s MY leg you’re rubbing!” my husband said.
“Thank goodness!” I breathed. “I thought I needed a shave.”
Eating also was a challenge on the crowded beach. One time, just as I unwrapped a tuna sandwich, a bunch of kids came running by and kicked sand all over it. When I grumbled about it to the friend I was with, she laughed and said, “Well, now you have a genuine SAND-wich!”
Nobody likes a smart aleck.
Swimming never was my favorite pastime at Hampton Beach, either. Let’s face it, the water there is so cold, anyone who stays in it for longer than five minutes runs the risk of having his or her body donated to a cryonics lab. And the beach sand is so hot, only fire walkers can tolerate it. I always feared that if I stuck my burning feet into the icy water, they’d crack and shatter into a million pieces.
I still have to laugh when the local meteorologists try to make the water sound inviting. “It’s a scorching 105 degrees out there today, so head on over to Hampton Beach where the water temperature is a refreshing 42 degrees!”
To me, water cold enough to turn skin the color of a Smurf’s is “refreshing” only to polar bears.
But by far, the worst part of the beach is the smell of the salt marshes at low tide. The first time my husband and I got a whiff of one, we didn’t know what it was. We ended up casting accusing glances at a group of people standing near us.
“I’ll bet they went to one of those all-you-can-eat baked-bean suppers at the local church,” I whispered to my husband.
The one thing I always did enjoy about the beach, however, was the roller coaster at Salisbury Beach. Every time we went to Hampton, we took a side trip to Salisbury, just up the road a few miles, for the sole purpose of riding the coaster there. It was an old wooden monstrosity, so weather-beaten, it actually swayed and creaked whenever a strong breeze hit it. Still, I loved it.
The part of the ride I enjoyed the most was when the coaster paused at the top of the first hill...just before it took the big plunge. From that height, there was such an endless, breathtaking view of the ocean, I swear I once was able to see Queen Elizabeth waving at me from her balcony at Buckingham Palace.
So I was devastated to return to Salisbury one summer, only to discover the roller coaster was gone. I was told it had been torn down to make room for a kiddies’ amusement park, but to this day, I still believe what really happened was the last nail holding the coaster together finally popped out one night and reduced it to a giant heap of rotting lumber.
For as long as I can remember, the one thing beaches always seem to have inspired is romance. I can’t count how many contestants on those dating shows on TV have listed “long walks on the beach” as one of their biggest turn-ons.
I guess they’ve never strolled by a salt marsh during low tide.
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