Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beach Scenes, a Civic Soapbox essay by Ellen Adams

Biking three miles on the boardwalk in an early morning mist is a good beginning. Yesterday’s tracks in the sand have been swept away overnight, leaving a clean slate.

Leaning my bike against Neptune’s regal statue, I join the mythical king in looking out to sea. Rescue personnel are leaving the scene of an accident on the beach. A homeless person, sleeping in a sand chair, was overrun by a trash truck at dawn. His legacy will be a cordon of yellow ribbons and a ten second spot on the evening news.

As the sun moves across the sky, umbrellas offer circles of shade for a random mix of vacationers.
Wannabe athletes invite attention by throwing footballs. Under her grandmother’s careful eye, a youngster teases breakers splashing over her feet. The flesh colored prosthesis attached below her left knee is not as obvious as her fashionable green Crocs.

A toddler wearing a floppy pink sunhat does not clamor for anything. She nestles in her father’s lap and silently watches the others playing. He whispers in her ear, setting her down on a Barbie towel. Daddy’s little princess is a special needs child.
A threesome arrive carrying room towels. The slender teenager and portly middle-aged man frolic in the waves while the woman snaps pictures. If she viewed the scene through a wider lens, would she see his inappropriate touching of the girl?

A noisy bunch pulling coolers and overloaded wagons sets up camp. The surf is up and guys with boogie-boards run full speed ahead as mothers talk to other mothers. One lone boy idly kicks the sand, standing apart. He wears wearing a long sleeve shirt under a blue flannel hooded bathrobe printed with scenes of super heroes. A short time later, this autistic child stretches prone on the hot sand in the broiling noonday sun. The temperature has reached 98 degrees.

A young man rushes by shouting, “Have you seen my little boy with blond hair and plaid swim trunks? He’s five years old and his name is Caleb!” A terrified mother, holding a sleeping baby, scans the crowd. Strangers rise to their feet like sports fans doing the wave, and fan out, calling for Caleb. When a sniffling son is finally handed over to a jubilant dad, onlookers swallow lumps in their throats. The grateful parents pause to thank well-wishers, then turn for home.

Beach life moves on. Conversations pick up where they left off, and readers pick up their paperback novels. But, in the fading afterglow of finding Caleb, are there any among us who do not feel sense the wonder of human connectedness and its innate capacity for caring? Are there any among us who do not feel pleased in by playing a fleeting role in something larger than ourselves?

And, who among us does not love a happy ending?
-- Ellen Adams lives and writes in Gainesboro on the outskirts of Winchester.

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