I’m beach bound in just three more days, and in the meantime I’m inventing ways to make time move faster. I’m twiddling my thumbs. I’m doing tricks to make the pencil look like it’s made of rubber. I’m spelling words on the calculator, and turning it upside down to read it. 01134. 58008.
My family has vacationed at Ocean City, Maryland every year going back to the 60s. I’ve got the sand and saltwater taffy congealing in my blood, along with last night’s Pasta Roni. I’ve gotten the girlfriend into it. I showed her the ropes of Ocean City. How to do it. You see, the girlfriend’s family considered OC “honky tonk,” and so her memories of family vacations are filled with stuff like boring mountains and sparkling lakes. Mine are memories of begging for a hermit crab, a chance to win that goldfish at the ping pong game, or anything else living. My parents never let me. “Think of the dog waiting for you at home,” they’d say.
I’ve got memories of carnival rides and cotton candy. Memories of the ungodly, lengthy, white-tableclothed, seafood dinner my parents insisted we eat before the rides and candy. And when we complained, memories of them threatening “we better enjoy our vacation,” or else. No rides. We’d swiftly shut up. For about 2 minutes.
The boardwalk was and still is a kid’s paradise for me, filled with junk shops, arcades, and fried foods. The beach was OK. I liked to dig in the sand and try to reach China, and these days I enjoy getting my Vitamin-D starved ass some sunshine. The water has always scared me–certain death lurks everywhere–jellyfish, crabs, children peeing near me, and that one time I dared to go out, a typhoon wave knocking my head into the seafloor so hard, I’d seen stars. Guess I’m more of a landlubber. That’s cool, that’s OK. Looking good from the shore, that’s what I do.
You put your 8 hours in at the beach each morning. That’s your job, your work while you’re there. Finish your 8 hours, clock out, and head up to the pool bar. Then it’s dinnertime. I’m still not a fan of that white-table clothed dinner, but I’m happy having some seafood at a picnic bench covered with newspaper.
But more than just memories and traditions survive my childhood at Ocean City. I have this beach towel that I got when I was a kid, and it’s BETTER THAN EVERYTHING, EVEN BLUE COTTON CANDY:
A true towel-of-the-80s: a skateboarding Stegosaurus, a Triceratops playing football, a batting T-Rex, and a basketball Brontosaurus wearing high top Chuck Taylors. Very few of my precious things survived the flea market pile, donating to the homeless kids, me losing it, or me destroying it, but thankfully, this towel made it through. I still use it too; it’s in my regular bath towel rotation when off season.
I remember when I got this towel; my sister got a towel too. Hers was cartoon penguins at a playground–a playground sculpted in ice of course. Oh, they were so cute and having so much fun, sliding down the slide. We were very excited to take our prized towels to the beach that year. We laid them out in the sand, sitting on them that day in the sun, waiting for the rides to come. We twiddled our thumbs. We dug for China. I planned ways to get a hermit crab out of the deal.
We stayed at the Comfort Inn that year, because they had a pool. This was very exciting. After the beach, we went to the pool at the hotel–a good time, swimming and splashing, hoping Dad would jump in, do the Jaws theme, and throw us across the pool, screaming murder when he did. After we got out the pool, we wrapped ourselves in our cherished towels. We marched up the stairs to our room wearing them, the air-conditioning stinging our still-wet skin. Mom draped the towels over our balcony to dry. We dressed and went to dinner at the white table-clothed place. It was long, long, long, but the rides did come. And I still did not get a hermet crab.
Later that night, we went out on the balcony to retrieve our towels. Only mine was there. My sister’s was gone. We looked down below, but there was no sign of those happy little penguins. We looked up above for signs of someone shimmying down to our balcony. We looked at the front desk. Some lucky kid must have snagged those sliding penguins– but for us, they would slide no more. My sister cried and cried at losing her towel. I might have learned a lesson in sympathy and loss, but I only felt the special selfishness reserved for siblings–Weee, I still have mine! Good thing mine didn’t fall!
Now, there’s another story about the Comfort Inn. I lost something too that year. I questioned whether I want to tell you, but hell, my parents have told this story to my dates the first time they’ve met them, so I guess I might as well tell it. I lost my blanket the following night. I had a security blanket that I slept with every night of my life up until that last night at the Comfort Inn. “Blanky”, as it was known, was threadbare and looked like a tattered rag. I left it on the bed when the maids came in to clean. They must have bundled it up in the sheets, or threw it out, because Blanky went to the same place as the penguins. My parents actually dug in the garbage dumpsters for about an hour. That’s the part of the story they like to tell the most. That they dumpster dived for me. And I complain that never got a hermit crab.
With that, I say RIP sweet, sliding penguins. With that I say, farewell, Blanky. We never did stay at the Comfort Inn again. That Comfort Inn, with the weeping walls of childish loss–where I lost Blanky and my sister lost her penguin towel.
But weee, I still have my towel, mine didn’t fall! And the T-Rex is still up at bat. High fly ball into right field. And she is gone.