Winslow Homer’s portrait of Singing Beach, Manchester, MA. (Sometimes called Eagle Head)
I grew up in a quirky little town and I was a quirky little girl. Sure I didn’t fit in, didn’t have too many friends, but that got lost in all the sun, the soft grass and the big waves. I got to go to the beach everyday, every summer until I left home. Who wouldn’t be homesick? But let’s not get to fantastical. I discovered, as most freckled working people who love to swim do, that you can’t spend all day at the beach. If you’ve had a sun stroke you know what I mean.
I was about 14 and had spent the day at Crane’s Beach with the rest of the class celebrating the last week of school. Not sure what excuse the teachers used to get a hundred of us on the school bus to a beach a couple of towns away when we had four beaches in our own town! Maybe they called it a science field trip because of the gigantic dunes and the stuff that grows there. I remember bayberries and thought immediately of candles and pilgrims. I absolutely hate scented candles,(doesn’t everyone?) but I didn’t know that then.
I swam, not everyone did. I never had that teenage fear of bathing suits. I have a gigantic birthmark on my thigh which looks like someone grabbed me with a red-hot glove but that didn’t bother me then. What bothered me was that I couldn’t talk to people. Now I can talk to people but I almost always wear shorts because I’m tired of people pointing out that I’m having some kind of vaginal hemorrhage of which I must be unaware. Some kids played Capture the Flag that day. I don’t think I did. I didn’t get picked for teams even though I was fast and strong. I was weird. I wanted to play, just like I wanted to put my towel near the popular kids but I knew my place. I fell asleep in the sun and got all red. I bet I wasn’t the only one because back then lots of people were all Irish and were stupid about sunburns.
The next day I woke up and I couldn’t see or hear. I had to throw up and poop at the same time and my skull was shaking. It felt and sounded like there was an earthquake, (as much as I gathered from doing a report on the 1964 Alaska earthquake.) I crawled to the bathroom down the hall and I probably screamed because my mother showed up, which was not something a fourteen year old usually requests except when near death. She got me back in bed and iced me down. I was hallucinating a bit but I had done that before when I had pneumonia so that didn’t scare me as much as the not being able to see or hear part. That scared me into actually wearing the long sleeve white shirt I always bring to the beach to this day.
I don’t miss being left out of social groups, I find that true of myself here in Anchorage as well. I’m a little oblivious of it until it’s too late. Just like the time my mother sent me downtown to get milk on prom night. The grocery store was full of the high school bag boys and their dates getting their photos taken. I didn’t figure that out until I got to the check out. I was not so much ashamed that I didn’t go to prom but more that I had been oblivious to it completely and should have known not to go out and advertise my cluelessness.
I do miss the swimming and the sand. We have lakes in Anchorage but people try to scare me into not swimming in them because of the goose poop or blood suckers. There are two year olds swimming and I’m supposed to stay dry? I think not. I don’t mind baby or goose poop in a pond as much as I would in a swimming pool.
I miss the birdsong in the big trees. I miss the dark nights when bats would come out. I miss the big old fan we used to put in the window. My brother still owns and uses it! I think I even miss getting sick and having someone to take care of me. I grew up in a very class conscious republican town. I now live in a very money conscious republican town. Anchorage is beautiful anyway. Today the sun was out and it was 70 degrees. Sometimes a summer goes by with only one or two days like this. Instead of swimming everyday, I ride my bike to work on the trail which makes me feel like a kid. My house is like a home even though it’s a rental, maybe because I’ve lived here for eight years, maybe because I always have roommates who feel like family.
I’ve got to buy my plane tickets to go back east like I do every July. My brother might move and then I don’t know if I will go back anymore. Maybe that will make me move back. I could be lonely here or lonely there. I remember never wanting to feel trapped like my mother did in her small town life with so many children she couldn’t remember their names. Maybe I’m meant to run around free with a little anchor here or there so I don’t just float away completely. I’ve been lucky that going “home again” has been happy for me because I have family there who care about me. That can’t last forever and it reminds me that I have sun spots and age spots now. I carry my home with me in my wrinkles from summers past and my likeliness to have sand in my pants at the end of a summer’s day.