I stand on the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan and feel the sand slide through my toes. It’s fine and white and soft, unlike the harsh pebbles and rocks of Puget Sound. Although it’s August, it’s chilly in the shade. And windy! Nearby on the beach of Grand Haven State Park, yellow flags warn potential swimmers that the water may be rough. Be cautious.
For most, the cold water is warning enough. I don’t see many swimmers. My oldest son, however, is apparently a hybrid Polar Bear / Golden Retriever. He’s befriended a slightly older boy, and they’re playing fetch. The older boy throws a stick as far as he can into the lake, and Alex runs into the frigid water to bring it back. They’ve been doing this for 20 minutes.
We’re at the state park for a cookout dinner. Nana and Po-Po have prepared everything: hamburgers and hot dogs, melon, chips, lemonade… The works. They even brought everything we will need for s’mores, including marshmallows so big they look better suited for a brontosaurus. It’s going to be a grand feast.
Alex finally gets too cold from running into the lake. After a quick towel-off, he starts a new game with Patrick. The two brothers crawl off on all fours, pretending to be animals lost in the desert. It doesn’t take long for them to get so far away that I can’t hear what they’re saying, so I don’t what twists and turns the game took from there. Watching them, it’s easy for me to imagine that they really are in the desert.
Sand is a constant presence this trip. No matter how much I shake them, I can’t seem to get it out of my shoes. It decorates the bathtub every night when the kids get out, because they spent hours earlier in the day burying each other. And making sand castles. Alex even ate sand, and he only stopped because we insisted… Not because he thought it a bad idea. Maybe this is the defining moment of the loss of childhood innocence: when you stop seeing sand as fun, and it just becomes grit.
Our culture romanticizes youth, but this is one case where the old fogie perspective is clearly right. In the distance, my kids crawl through the grit, getting another batch lodged in their bathing suits to decorate the evening bath. I turn away and head for the grill, the food, and the sane companionship of other old fogies.
More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bdewey/sets/72157635125285875/