Even before moving, Kate and Mister had agreed that one good way to try to learn about New Jersey and New York City would be to have weekly outings--either into the city or some other notable excursion. Before they left on their travels, they had time for two such outings, which were to Central Park (a visually overwhelming experience) and the Staten Island Ferry (busy, but fun--especially chancing upon a jazz band in a park on the way home.) The entire first week they were home after their trip soared into the upper 90s, and both Kate and Mister agreed that it would be a good opportunity to investigate the beaches nearby.
There were a number of beaches, but there was one about an hour away that sounded nice, and Kate and Mister made plans to go in a couple days, on Thursday. First thing in the morning, they gathered everything they could think of--umbrella stroller, parasol, towels and blanket, camp chairs, food and milk, sunglasses, and of course sunblock. Even so, before they reached the end of the first block, they thought of something else they had forgotten. Mister drove around the block (they lived on a one way street), and Kate ran inside to get a book to read aloud on the drive.
In spite of some audible discontent in the backseat, the drive south was smooth. Instead of going to the state park, they decided to park off a side street for free and walk up to the beach. Sylvia was in the stroller with an absurd number of bags hanging from the handles and swinging around on either side of her. Kate and Mister each carried more bags, and Kate chased after Teddy, who was eager to run into the middle of the road. It wasn't until they made it to the boardwalk that Kate realized it must have been too easy...free parking place, easy beach access...must be too good to be true. They approached a ramp over to the beach, but at the entrance sat a bored teenager with a flawless tan. There was an entrance fee--$10 each. What! Kate scoffed in her mind. But then she looked down. Teddy was wriggling. Her bags were sliding down her arms to her wrists, Sylvia's stroller was so laden down, they could barely steer. She sighed. Expediency was definitely becoming more valuable--yet another evidence of her old age......err....maturity.
The beach was lovely and clean. And in spite of the heat, the water still felt quite cool. There was also a terrific breeze, which kept you cool and gave the ultimate sandy experience. Kate and Mister spread out a blanket and dropped a bag on each corner. In five minutes (or less) there was sand in their hair and diapers, at the bottom of bags, covering snacks and bottles, and also the proper place--between their toes.
For the next 2 hours, the kids played in the sand and the water, running back and forth and digging and getting their feet wet. (Sylvia would walk as far as anyone would help her!) Then they took turns returning to home base for a sandy snack, a sandy bottle of milk, and a quiet rest time buckled into the stroller. Kate fashioned an ingenious (and invaluable!) little shelter from the wind by hooking her little parasol around the back of the stroller. They didn't actually take naps, but were certainly better for having a short rest and were ready to go again for another hour after they were done. In spite of the obvious lack of naps, the sand, and the wind, Teddy and Sylvia clearly had a fabulous time. There was no crying or complaining. Even the seagulls were entertaining when they crept up within kicking distance in order to steal some abandoned crackers.
Finally, Kate and Mister decided it was time to head home. They packed everything up, dragged everything through the sand back to the boardwalk, changed babies, got fresh bottles, and loaded up the car. All in all, Kate felt like it had been a very successful trip--though it still rankled her that they had paid $20 to go to a beach which had half a zillion lifeguards and no bathroom!
In the coming days and weeks, Mister was less enthusiastic about their "successful" trip to the beach. He had put sunscreen on his shoulders, but in the flurry of taking care of the kids, he had forgotten to ask Kate to cover the middle of his back. Twenty minutes after they got home, he approached Kate with a sheepish grin, "Do you know if we have any aloe vera gel?" Kate looked at his back and was horrified--truly, a lobster red; the worst burn that she had ever seen made an interesting map-like design across the middle of his back. A week later, when the worst of the itchiness was finally subsiding, Kate tried to remind Mister that it actually had been a good and fun trip to the beach.
"Remember how the kids didn't complain at all? And they slept so hard and so long that night?"
With a noncommittal grunt, Mister assented that the kids had a good time, but there was a meaningful silence afterward.