I think it was July or sometime in August that we last went to the beach. Whether because the waves were not as he wanted or the crowds bothered him or he was vexed that he could not swim as far as he wanted, Charlie got so upset that we had to pull the car over on the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway and things were not pretty.
After that, Jim and I agreed it just wasn't worth it. What was supposed to be a fun family outing had become an all-out stress-filled experience from start to finish, including the time at the beach itself. Afterwards, Charlie himself did not ask to return to the beach all summer and I'm not sure how much he missed it.
With snow, slush and ice on the ground here in north-central New Jersey after the Saturday snowstorm, we decided to venture back down to the beach. Jim surmised there probably wouldn't be any snow by the ocean.
He was right. Charlie smiled some as drove towards the beach but was a bit tentative. He got right out of the car, put on his biking gear and he and Jim pedaled off without further ado. I passed them and waved as I drove 18 miles south; they rode up 90 minutes later, just as the sun was coming up. 'We could smell the ocean all the way!' Jim enthused.
Well, if you know Jim, he always enthuses about the ocean and the beach and this beach in particular, but he had an extra reason to do so Sunday. He and Charlie had had a terrific ride with a strong wind at their backs. As it is the off-season, there was no traffic and they had the road to themselves. We put the bikes and gear away quickly and Charlie proceeded to eat the box of crackers I had concealed in my backpack. We stopped at McDonalds afterwards and only towards the last stage of the ride home could we see Charlie getting antsy. He wanted more to eat after we were home and then seemed uneasy and then went straight to bed and fell asleep at 7pm.
He is still getting over that wretched stomach illness and 18 miles is, by any stretch of the imagine, a good workout. We anticipated that being back at the ocean would be both a treat and also the source of worries, sadness, mixed feelings. Charlie had known we were going but we had not make a big deal about it -- no social story or some such -- as we figured that thinking about a beach trip in advance meant that Charlie would feel compelled to get the boogie board and wear his swim suit and then he'd want to get in the water.
And, Saturday night, he had stayed up past midnight, vexed about the staples. I told him they would come out on Monday. Charlie sat on his bed and looked woebegone.
Hopefully the beach trip was a distraction in a good way. Certainly it was a beauteous thing to be back beside the ocean. Self-imposed exile from a place you love is sometimes necessary. We shall see if semi-regular trips back might be in the offing.