Earlier in the week, my son asked me if we could please go to “Raspberry (Asbury) Park” this weekend. Usually he refers to the ocean as the up-down beach but this time he was specific. In previous trips, we generally went to Long Branch. Overall, we find it a nicer beach. But last month, my spouse had wanted to check out Asbury Park since we had never gone swimming there and my spouse wanted to try something new. It just so happened that our first time at Asbury Park was also my son’s first experience with a boogie board. The conditions were perfect. Low tide and the presence of a sand bar ensured that the waves were gentle, low and not intimidating. My son, who a year ago was afraid to put his head in the water, loved boogie boarding. However, our following trip to the ocean, this time to Long Branch, was during high tide on an extremely windy day. The current was fierce, the waves brutal and after ten minutes my son lost all interest in being in the water. Hence, on Monday, when he requested a trip to the ocean, he specified his destination. At first we were hesitant to go back to Asbury, but the little man was so insistent that we didn’t want to disappoint him.
When we arrived late this morning, the tide was low and it was still going out. My son could barely sit still long enough for me to put sunscreen on him before racing down to the water, boogie board in tow. He didn’t dither or dawdle at the water’s edge; he dove right in and caught the first wave that came rushing towards him. The wave crashed down on top of him, knocking him under, but before I could rescue him, he came shooting out of the water, riding the breaker towards the shore. As soon as his momentum stopped, he jumped up – a radiant smile on his face - and dashed back into the water. Again and again he rode the waves. A few times he wiped out, falling off his board and getting tossed around in the surf, but each time he stood up, wiped the water from his eyes and searched for the next wave. Nothing shook his confidence. Instead, his pleasure seemed to increase with each ride. By the end of the day, the tide was coming in. The waves were nearly as ferocious as they had been when at Long Branch, but they didn’t deter him at all. In fact, once he rode a big wave - the water pounding his small frame, his little head emerging from the water, eyes closed and cheeks puffed up from holding his breath – he had no interest in the smaller ones. He would wait impatiently until he could see a towering crest looming in the distance. Then he would hop on his board and fly. If the wave was strong and the ride bumpy but long, he would leap out of the water and exclaim, “That was epic.”
At one point, he announced that he wanted to swim for awhile instead of ride his boogie board. Last year, he used to cling to me, petrified of the smallest wave. This year it was a struggle to get him to hold my hand. He wanted his freedom. He loved jumping over the waves and diving under the big ones. Every time a wave broke on his back he squealed in delight. If he hadn’t gotten cold, he would have stayed in the water all day.
By five o’clock the wind picked up. Since it was getting late and the life guards were leaving, we decided to fly our kite. But deciding to fly a kite and actually flying it are not the same thing. First my spouse tried. The wind cooperated, lifting the dragon high into the air, but after fluttering around for a moment or two it crashed onto the sand – time and time again. I took a turn. I was no better. We could get the kite in the air, we just couldn’t keep it there. Obviously it was us. We were doing something – or many things – wrong since all around us kites flew high, rippling in the wind and taunting us with the success of their flight. Soon my son demanded a turn. The poor little guy was very determined. Each time the kite lifted off, he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him, kicking up clouds of sand. And the kite would cooperate, until its nose bent and it angled down towards the sand . My son was devastated. He kept it aloft longer than either my spouse or I did, but not long enough to make him happy. I felt terrible.
Despite the tragedy of the kite, it was a fantastic day at the ocean – our best one yet. By the time we got in the car it was late, so we decided it would be best to eat before hitting the highway, especially since the Parkway is always jammed with traffic. But what to eat is always a difficult question in our family where none of us like the same foods. Breakfast, however, is the least complicated meal and I so I asked my little man, “Would you like pancakes for dinner?”
“Oh yes, I would love that!”
photo by Kati Jaeger