At the Beach

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There are two types of people in the world: those who think that beaches are only for ocean dwellers and those of us who know better.

Really, you can’t fault people who by chance are lucky enough to see an endless expanse of sea courtesy of living on the continental edge that shores upon it. But for my money (or lack thereof, as I’ve never been to the ocean) if it has sand and it happens to be by a body of water, salt or otherwise, it’s a beach. And when it’s ninety-plus degrees outside and the sun is beating down on you with an unrequited fury – you go to the beach.

Our favorite beach here in the literal Midwest of this fine country is a scrappy little lake off Highway 385 called Roubaix. I can remember going camping with my grandparents and cousins there and using it as an excuse to exercise the use of my freshly-minted drivers license as a teenager and go swimming with my brothers on more than one occasion. Even though it’s fairly easy to get to from any of three directions, it always feels like this little secret spot that only a select few know about.

At least, until we actually showed up and it was jam-packed with fly fishers, inner-tubers and sand castle builders.

Not to be deterred by the glut of other agua seekers, we set up camp along a wall made of old railroad ties and made the best of it. After lightly bathing in sunscreen, as a family we timidly tip-toed into the cool, cool water.

It must be known that, even though we’ve all jumped into lakes on a regular basis throughout childhood, getting used to the water always seems like a chore. First there’s the chill up the spine. Then, the goose bumps. The toughest part may be the nether region which, for gentlemen at least, puts us back at step one. Finally there’s that moment where you say screw it and just dive in. You mileage with each step may vary, but no matter what your approach you’re guaranteed to yelp as you resurface if not with a chill than at least with the exhilaration that it’s over and you can just enjoy the damn water.

Everybody kind of took off to do their own thing, as my family is wont to do. Tucker decided he was going to tap into his inner Frank Lloyd Wright and build the most epic of sandcastles. Owen wanted to toss a water Frisbee in the hopes of catching it in mid-air not unlike an eager dog. And Breckin did what Breckin does — find catharsis in the simplest things; in this case splashing me when I wasn’t looking. As long as he’s using his fists for something joyously engaging rather than to pommel his brothers, I wasn’t going to stop him.

After a while my father-in-law Joel showed up, which meant one thing – it was time to kayak.

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He’s been doing it for years, and while everyone else has given it a go or two, I had yet to paddle out. All week Breckin had been bugging me to go out with him, which is a good thing because the last time anyone tried to get him on a boat he wailed like a banshee in fear. Before that I had to figure it out for myself, lest we both dump ourselves in and I’m forced to learn how to swim myself and a small child out of the middle of a lake.

Looking for a little direction, Joel pushed me in to the body of water and gave me a few pointers before taking off like someone who has done it a time or twenty. While it took me a little bit to consistently stay steady, I’m happy to announce it felt very intuitive. Soon enough I was figuring out at which angle I needed to dip the paddle in to either turn or get some good speed and instead focused on enjoying the ride. I’d often stop for a moment to enjoy the view of the hills, watch the people have fun on the coast and take in the din of birds and the splashing of fish.

Taking my kids out was an even grander experience. Like my hike with Owen, it was fun to peek into their minds when they aren’t verbally sparring for Carrie or my attention. Tucker, ever so inquisitive, asked a ton of questions. He was content sitting serenely until he saw Joel and Breckin approaching, at which we had to splash them. In all honesty, we ended up being the losers in almost every joust, but getting wet was the whole point to going to the lake.

Breckin on the other hand was his usual wild self. He was constantly splashing his hands into the water, keeping a lookout for fish or, at least for me, scarily rocking the boat back and forth in the hopes of tipping us over. Breckin also tends to be a question monger, only his often dipped into the absurd. Time is a concept he doesn’t understand, but he did figure out that I can’t be a grandparent until he becomes a parent, and that won’t happen for a really long time. At least, I hope he figured it out…

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After staying way longer than intended, eventually our arms were tired, our eyes filled with sweat and dripping sunscreen and our bellies empty. It was time to go. Without so much as a whisper, we piled into the van and followed Grandpa to the Sugar Shack for a celebratory burger before heading home and hitting the hay.

Sure, you can’t look for seashells by the sea shore or see whales in the distance, but I like to think our kind of beach has a certain allure to it too. If you don’t believe me, then I guess I’ll have to re-write this article next weekend when we’ll likely go back again.

 

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