When I first introduced Emily to the California Beach Lifestyle this last summer she was hesitant and unsure. She took one look at the scantily clad young girls and told me she’d never wear a bikini. She complained that the water looked too cold or ‘samui!!’ as she exclaimed in Japanese. She said the waves were scary ‘kowai!!’ and she didn’t want to go in the water ‘dame!!’. She told me the animal life in the tide pools was weird ‘hen!!’ and she refused to touch the grasping tentacles of the flower-like sea anemone which she said was gross ‘kimoi!!’
Yesterday at the beach with her friends, Emily led the way in introducing the other girls to the sea. She was first down the steps to the familiar sands of summer. She immediately ran across the beach to the cliff to show the other girls how to find polished crystals embedded in the sediment. As we made our way out towards low tide she showed the girls where to step, cautioning them of slippery rocks. Lifting strands of loose seaweed Emily explaining about the kelp beds which rise like forests in deep water. When I called the girls to do my usual show-and-tell about sea anemone Emily pushed through the crowd to boldly place her finger into the animal’s gaping maw, allowing the creature to envelope her digit despite the other girls’ cries of astonishment and disgust. Emily pointed out large, bright orange garibaldi fish swimming boldly within the clear waters at the edge of the rocks, cautioning her friends ‘those bite.’ At the far end of the tide pools we stood at a place where the land definitively ends, dropping immediately from exposed rocks into 20 foot depths and the open ocean beyond. The very place Emily and I had played like seals together in the waning days of summer. As we looked at the deep water Emily eyed me and said tantalizingly ‘don’t you want to get in?’
Before long Emily was up to her waist – shoes and all – in a deep pool filled with cold, clear water. And the other girls soon followed. Though I was first to enter this last summer, I was last to go in yesterday; carrying Ollie the dog safely in my arms and letting Emily lead the way. We moved to the sand and the girls laughed and played, running up and down the beach while being pursued by large waves breaking hard on the shore. Ollie and I sat and watched from the dry sands, the dog not yet at ease with waves and wet. I felt happy. The way an old man feels happy watching young people enjoying their youth.
Emily at last ran up the beach to me and told me ‘I want to get in!’ I had to tell her no, as time was late and we had no towels or any change of dry clothes, though I kinda wish I’d said yes. I promised Emily we’d be back…soon. And I made a note to myself to remind her to pack her beach towel and her skimpy California bikini, each and every time we return to the sea.