Summer of 1994

During the summer of 1994, every Saturday was beach day. We gathered the emerald green lawn chairs, rainbow colored beach balls, ice cold water, fruit snacks, and heaps of towels. Aunt Mona would come to our place with her husband Jean and their children: Christina and Joanna. They lived several blocks away on Lemon Street. Contrary to the name, the street had been lined with fifteen feet palm trees.

We started off the day at eight a with a slow start but somehow we managed. Since I was the oldest in my household, I had to make sure Edward and Molly had all their belongs—sunscreen and sunglasses. And so, my immediate and extended family would gather in two minivans. Usually, someone would demand to play their music. The children usually preferred the latest Disney hits and the adults were more interested in elevator jazz music. This was the kind of jazz music that would put anyone to sleep. The ride never took more than fifteen minutes so our qualms about music would usually be gone.

When we arrived, the Atlantic Ocean appeared like a refreshing universe encapsulating everything in our presence. The dark blue water was sombre and serene. The waves were mellow and occasionally pushing the sand further up shore. And from a distance, we could see those cruise ships at the tip of the horizon—falling off the edge of the earth. The ocean—as I saw it—was open to the world and bounded by my vision.

First person in gets to be the ruler of the world,” shouted Julian, as we carried our beach gear past the sand dunes.

No, the first person in the water gets dibs on the candy,” said Joanna.

The six of us children—carrying floatation devices and chairs—ran across the sanding passing b y polka dot umbrellas and sunbathing bodies. We navigated by sunbathing bodies, incomplete sand castles, and abandoned sandals. We had two things in mind—to find the perfect spot and to reward ourselves with a swim.

Our parents were usually slower and more calm. As far as they were concerned, the beach was a zone for relaxation not a contest for world domination.

This spot is perfect,” I said.

We set our things down and then raced to the water. Molly fell face first on the sand. Edward pushed Julian. And Christina tried to trip. Given her lack of obstruction, Joanna won.

I’m the queen of the universe,” she said.

She did not hesitate to gloat and proclaim her victory over the rest of us.

Don’t go too far,” shouted my mother from the sand.

Okay,” we all said in unison.

Like always, we did underwater handstands, raced across the shore, and best of all—we tried to drown each other.

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