Fred and Kathy both opened the doors of the SUV at the same time, stepping down to the sandy earth one foot at a time. The three younger kids were imprisoned in their car seats; two in the second row and one in the back. The older two were wedged in between, wearing exasperated expressions from the ride, the heat, and the fact that they had to waste their summer at the beach in Southern California when all their friends were staying on the lake or heading to that expensive resort in Canada just across the border near home.
Fred lifted up the hatch to get at the newly purchased beach chairs, shoved in the back behind the seat. He handed two each to the older kids and then began pulling the canopy from the roof where it was secured with several bungee cords.
We should've left the motel earlier, he thought, as he surveyed the stretch of sand lining the ocean front. There’s got to be over a thousand people here already. How the heck am I supposed to find a place to put this thing up? He watched as his two older children trailed after his wife, boldly weaving a trail between families, teenagers, surfers, and sand castles being erected by what looked to be some sort of youth group, looking for a place to land.
Kathy finally stopped where the dry sand resists the tide, looked back at him, and waved. Penny and Todd put down the chairs trying to stake out a space large enough for the canopy, and in an effort to disguise the fact that they were here with their family.His daughter plopped down on one of the chairs in the center and dug her cell phone out of her pocket.
Kathy and Todd headed back to the car and as they got closer, Fred walked slowly towards them holding the canopy on one shoulder and lugging a 20 pound chest filled with a large ice block and two six packs of soda with his other arm. He grimaced as his virgin feet hit the hot sand. He groaned inwardly as he realized how long it was going take to reach their base camp. Oh well, he thought, this is what a husband and father is supposed to do, right?. Put up or shut up bucko, he thought, as he continued his journey.
As he approached Penny, he overheard her say quietly "I’ll meet you tonight" and briefly puzzled over who in the world she could be talking to, since they did not know anyone within 2,000 miles, but quickly refocused on the task at hand- erecting the canopy.
He was just securing the last supporting pole, when his wife approached with their youngest daughter Zoe cradled on one hip. Kathy had ordered a beach cover-up in a leopard skin stretchy fabric from a catalog and was also wearing gold sandals with tiny heels that the same catalog declared were in style for a tropical vacation this year. She looked very pretty but a little dressed up for this southern California beach town
He looked around at their neighbors and noticed there were two scary looking teen boys just north of them, and on the south side a woman with a very small bikini, a deep tan and the look of a morning after. A pack of cigarettes and 2 empty beer bottles lay in the sand next to her, a disposable lighter tucked inside the cellephane box wrapper. Kathy is going to love sitting next to a smoker, he thought, but it’s too crowded and too late to move.
His daughter Penny was a pretty girl of 13 but she looked young for her age. They had enrolled her in a private girl’s school last year, where a uniform was the standard dress. She was still a bit of a tomboy, and remained on good terms with boys in the neighborhood she had known since kindergarten. She had never given them a moment of worry, but seeing her in this setting, so scantily clad, he was feeling a bit uncomfortable with the obvious physical signs that she was growing up.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw his wife waving at him. He could tell, even from this distance that she was wondering what was taking him so long. He headed back towards the car to get the last of the supplies so they could all begin their vacation.
To be continued