Social Distancing, the Beach, and Life with a Teen

The last two days, we've been going to where god lives. I use that term loosely because, though I am a churchgoer, I'm half atheist and half omni-theist. I don't really believe in "God" per se, but I believe the sacred is everywhere. Especially at the beach.

The beach has been the highlight of the first two days of self-imposed family quarantine at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts. Hubby has been home working on our kitchen, so I've grabbed this opportunity to pull my kids away from their screens and enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and family time (AKA arguing in a different location).

For those of you who don't live in Plymouth: Our beach is a three-mile long sandy spit that juts out into the ocean along the coast. Plymouth Harbor is on one side and Ireland is on the other. Way out at the end, it's just a few houses on stilts, some dunes, hardly any people, and a lot of beach. We like it out there. We find ourselves.

To get to that spot, you either walk or drive the beach road that cuts through the peninsula. In the summer you need a special permit. In the winter, you just need a hat. If you have a 4x4 car, you can drive out through the rocks, sand, and digestion-speeding bumps to the "Crossover," where the road takes you over the dunes onto the wide, soft grey sand. You can't drive the Crossover anymore, but this time of year, you can park your 4x4 in front of the Do Not Park signs and head over on foot. As soon as you cross over, you can no longer see town. It's just you and the open ocean and it feels like the sand stretches for miles. It's called The Point. Sometimes, especially in winter, The Point is heaven on earth.

Mind you, the beach doesn't really go on forever. If you walk all the way out, and it's a good long walk, you get to the end, the most spectacular spot in town and maybe on earth. Hardly anyone there, open sea to one side, a gorgeous view of Bug Light, our stout red and white lighthouse, a closeup of the twin spit across the harbor that we call Saquish, and Clark's Island, where the Pilgrims first landed and held their first worship service on land in 1620. You get to the end, and then you walk around it, and along the back of the beach on a rocky, hardly-used road that faces across the harbor to Plymouth Town. So much history, so many memories past and to come.

We didn't get too far the first day at The Point, because we had a certain strong-willed five year old with us who just wanted to bury small beach treasures in the sand. (We've been watching Pirates of the Caribbean in our isolation.) My daughter, on the other hand, was dying to walk and find shells for our yard, but we weren't getting very far. She loved our first day so much that she wanted to do it again, and she wanted to walk the whole beach this time, she said.  We'd have to leave young Jack Sparrow behind for this one. Good! Daughter time, triply precious when she's 13—that beautiful age where they start to hate you and stuff.  I was dying to take her out to the end, especially to see that pyramid beacon that I used to climb on long beach days as a kid.

So we're walking along in the wind and the sun and we're not talking about much at all, just enjoying each other's company, taking selfies, gabbing. By this time, I'm in the peculiar bliss that falls down on you in the ocean's glitter at the Point. I started sharing childhood stories. In the summer, every Sunday we would load up our little aluminum Starcraft motorboat and launch from the rocky, smelly, mucky harbor beaches of Stephen's Field or Nelson Park, and ride across to the Point. We'd set up camp on the harbor side, away from the veritable parking lot of partiers and loudspeakers on the ocean side of The Point, and spend the day playing in the waves, making sandcastles, and climbing the pyramid mostly by ourselves. It is among my most happy memories of childhood, and of my father. Trouble-free memories of Dad, who died last summer, are precious. I was so happy. We talked about how my family was so outdoorsy when I was little. Snowmobiling, motorcycling, boating, fishing, hiking.

About an hour into the walk, my daughter looks at the sand, and says, "One night, a man had a dream... footprints in the sand..." My heart nearly burst. She was quoting that beautiful story I remembered from my own youth. I used to carry it on a little laminated business card in my wallet back in my pious early teens, and I said so.

"I used to love that story," I said. "Two sets of footprints in the sand, one is the man's, one is Jesus'. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. The man looked at the footprints, and noticed that during the darkest times in his life, there was only one set of prints. He asked Jesus why."

She was listening.

"Jesus said, 'Those were the times that I carried you.' I always thought that was cool," I said. I didn't really mention much about how my beliefs have evolved over time. I figured she might ask.

She said nothing for a while. I was pretty sure we had found our own form of god, right there on that walk.  I said nothing for a while, looking at the soft white sand below my feet as we walked on.

Finally, she spoke. It was going to be deep. I was ready.

"Mom!" she said, and took in a deep breath of ocean air.

"Yes, my child?"

"Did you just fart?"


Remdawg said…
Love the point also. Even on a winter day, it is serene. Love your story. With so much time off school, I may find myself and Quinn there for an excursion. I am sure it the adventure will be more like your Jack Sparrow
Unknown said…
I just love it Susan!!!! Great story! Also love you sharing feelings about Beach Point. It is my favorite place on earth...the only place I have ever found total peace and contentment. My first memories and still my most cherished 79 years later. It is where I went to listen to my soul...only when it is empty. Thank you.Nancy
Soul Mama said…
That's where we go to hear the soul speak. I agree. Much love to you.