Being a lifelong resident of Maine, you probably assume I am an avid beachgoer. You might think saltwater courses through my veins or I spend my days clomping around in L.L. Bean boots, cursing the weather and yelling things like, “Ayuh! Afta I pahk the cah in the yahd, I’m fixin’ to steam us up some of them lobstahs. Wicked good, ayuh!”
Surprisingly, none of these things are accurate (Stephen King books and Murder She Wrote, be damned). The truth is, my thick-as-a-clam-chowdah accent only slips out when I’m damn good and angry (and then I’m a real pissah), I think lobsters are nothing more than big red cockroaches that taste like butter-soaked clumps of rubber and I only go to the beach maybe once or twice a year. Why go spend my time relaxing and inhaling those fresh cool saltwater breezes when I can stay home in the stifling heat and complain like a good born-n-raised Mainer should?
Last week over breakfast, my husband rubbed his eyes, slurped his coffee and said, “Hey. We should go to the beach today.”
“Yeah. We should,” I yawned.
“No, seriously. Let’s go. Fourth of July has already passed and at this rate we’ll be chopping down our Christmas tree tomorrow. Let’s go.”
“We’ll get ice cream after….” he sang.
“Huh? What? Ice cream?” I was fully awake now. Our kids began running in circles around the table chanting, “We want ice cream!” So off to the beach we went.
After an hour of packing and repacking, we back the car out of the garage, excitement building and the big cooler chilling. We drive the 50 minutes of winding seaside roads past The Lobster Shack and Dairy Maid with the windows rolled down and the saltwater smell filling the car. Ah, so peaceful.
Once there, I load my husband down with 10 bags, the umbrella, the cooler and towels and off we flip-flop our way to the perfect spot at Popham beach. The kids grab their buckets and shovels and run off. We play in the freezing heart-stopping surf. We build an entire fortress of sandcastles. We throw a frisbee around. Exhausted and feeling fried, I glance down at my watch. Forty-five minutes have passed.
I heave myself onto a sandy towel, cross my legs and shield my eyes as I peer out at the water. My son is flinging mud in my daughter’s face. She jabs him hard on the arm. Now that I know that they are settled, I turn my attention to the ominous line of seagulls that have gathered in a crooked line behind us. Hmm, I wonder. That’s odd. What are they waiting for? A few minutes pass and I turn to look at them again. And now they seem to be even closer. And there are more of them. All standing and glaring and waiting.
“Can I have some chips, Mom?” my daughter asks, her grinning face covered in sand. I hand her the bag and put on some more sunscreen. I open the cooler full of sandwiches and fish around for a water bottle. “Mommy! Let’s go swimming!” She grabs my hand and we run off.
Which brings me to the first Beach Bummer to Avoid:
* Keep every scrap and morsel of food packed tightly away at all times. Use your cooler. And keep the cooler lid locked. Turns out Maine seagulls are mutant crafty creatures who will wait patiently for Dumb Beachgoer to walk away, leaving a treasure trove of food behind. Within seconds they sound the secret seagull alarm and every single gull up and down the entire coast will swarm and swoop and scatter those BBQ chips over every inch of the beach, shredding the plastic bag into a million pieces in the process and ticking off everyone else within a 2 mile radius of your leftover bologna sandwich.
* Stay away from dead crabs. Do not point them out to your children. If your child runs up to you holding out his cupped hands and wants to know if you want to “kiss Mr. Krabs”, say no.
* Don’t believe your husband when he says he, “just put sunscreen” on the kids. Apply and reapply and reapply some more or be prepared to stock up on aloe vera later. Granted, putting sunscreen on little kids at the beach is like trying to grab a slippery muddy piglet in a farm contest, but think of all the exercise you’ll get.
* Always wear a swimsuit. Maybe you’re deathly afraid of being seen in one in public. Maybe this summer your thighs have expanded faster than the national debt. I understand. But still, wear one. You may think you won’t get wet. “I’ll just wade,” you say to yourself. Next thing you know a giant wave has knocked you over and you’re forced to spend the rest of the 90 degree day wearing heavy wet sticky underwear and shorts. Not cool, comfy or attractive.
* Always be sure to yell out, “Undertow! Undertow! Be careful of the undertow!” You can never scream this out enough or have enough advil on hand for the headaches you’ll get watching your daredevil son try and swim out to sea.
* Never pick a spot on the beach anywhere near a group of teens in bikinis. With every clump of sand your kids kick onto your pasty white, dimpled and bloated body, your sense of despair, regret and jealousy will only multiply as you wistfully gaze at them in all their carefree suntanned and toned youthfulness.
* Always wear sandals. Even if only for a short walk to the bathrooms. I’ve seen people walking around barefoot and I’ve come to the conclusion that the soles of their feet must be made of shoe leather. I discovered this a few minutes into my barefoot walk when my weak ankles began twisting in the white hot sand and within seconds third degree blisters started to form. I thought maybe if I walked faster, but then I hit that 185 degree blacktop in the parking lot and I broke out into a panicked run, arms and legs flailing, my lower half completely engulfed in flames now, my throat croaking, “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” over and over like somehow that would help with the searing pain (but only added to the fact that I looked like a complete moron).
* Don’t even bother cleaning the sand out of your car. Accept the fact that you will have sand in your car until it’s replaced by the salt from your winter boots.
* Always promise ice cream. That will be the one thing that will motivate your kids to leave the beach. It sure as hell motivates me.
Gate fee for Popham Beach: 2 adults, 2 kids = $10.00
Two bottles of Waterbabies sunscreen = $18.00
Four soft-serve cones at Dairy Maid = $6.50
One mega bottle of ibuprofen = $13.46
Returning home from the beach and plunking your tired butt down in front of the A/C = priceless