he weather had finally turned. The snows of winter were fast becoming a memory and people were coming out of their caves to enjoy the warmer weather and to inspect the damage to their homes.
As for me it was time for something much more important. It was time to dig out my old dilapidated beach chair and see if it would survive another year. I found it behind my lawnmower and under a pile of assorted tools whose uses I had long forgotten. It was covered in dust but I could see colorful streaks of blue beneath the gray. As soon as I dragged it out into the light memories of summers gone by filled my head. I have no clue as to the age of my old beach chair but I can’t remember a summer when I was without it.
The first thing I did was attempt to open it up from its winter foetal position. To my joy it opened up right away, with just a little screech of protest. I thought of oiling the hinges but came to the conclusion I didn’t want to put up with the smell of oil deep into the summer months. The fabric still looked okay, with only a few small tears and the shiny spot that held my butt.
I chuckled at the shoulder strap that allowed me to carry my friend down to the beach most every day during the summer months. The clips had long since rusted off and the strap was tied onto those loops that were still attached to the chair. This was not the original strap. At the end of every summer I searched through piles of chairs that other vacationers had thrown away, because they foolishly believed a beach chair could only survive one summer, and picked out a new strap.
Looking at my garage wall I saw a half dozen straps retired from previous summer seasons. I didn’t have the heart to throw them away because they carried not only my trusty beach chair but also memories of summers past. They also brought back memories of past blisters s I carried my chair to my favorite spot on the beach. Not far from where I had found my chair I found my summer sandals.
These rarely lasted long because my daily treks from the house to the beach had a tendency to wear off the soles. This particular pair was going into its third and probably last season. I especially loved them because they didn’t generate the early summer blisters before I walked my feet back into shape. In the dark and dusty space underneath the garage steps I noticed three more pair of sandals.
I wondered how long it would be before I had to build onto the garage to accommodate the relics I could not bring myself to throw out from summers gone by. It was now time to put on my sandals, which slipped onto my feet like a pair of old friends, strap my faithful old beach buddy onto my back and begin my first trek of the year to the beach where I would re-acquaint myself with some favorite seagulls, other beach goers and, of course, the ocean which was always there to hear my woes and dreams.
Walking down the street, as I have done so many times before, I felt new aches and pains that I never felt before. Winters have a tendency to make things that worked well in the past not work so well in the future. Or am I confusing the winter with time? My knees felt like they needed a bit of oil and the soles of my feet pleaded with me to put on a pair of socks. Of course I didn’t listen to any of this because I was on my first sojourn to the one place I could truly relax and listen to the soothing sounds of the waves on the sand.
As I walked through my neighborhood I saw many people working on their yards. Most were either fertilizing their lawns, killing weeds, planting gardens and flowers or just wandering around their properties daydreaming about their own plans for the summer that was just ahead. A few waved to me, as they always did. By mid-July I would have become a summer fixture again, somebody people expected to see. I like that and I always will.
As I finally hit the main thoroughfare to the beach I saw a house where an old lady lived who would perch on her deck all summer long and who would always give me a smile and a wave as I trudged past. I probably represented a kind of stability to her, a familiar summer sight, a reassurance that all was well with the world. At least I hope I did because I know she did to me. It bothered me that she wasn’t there on this beautiful summer’s day.
I hoped it was only because it was still early in the season and the air still had a coolness to it. Halfway to the beach my body was wondering why I had become suicidal in my old age. The chair on my back had created a welt on my shoulder even though it weighed almost nothing and with each step it bumped against the back of my thigh, producing a bruise that I knew would take weeks to heal. But, I didn’t care because soon I would be sitting in a place I haven’t been since the beginning of September. I knew my journey was worth it.
About an hour later I was walking on the beach. The sound of my feet scrunching along the sand was music to my ears and the gulls screamed overhead, celebrating my return. At least that is what I told myself. I passed other early travelers as they too walked the beach. We didn’t exchange greetings or waves. We just smiled at each other, knowing that at in this place at this moment we were among the luckiest people on Earth.
I finally arrived at my destination, opened my dilapidated old beach chair and set it down where it belonged. Then, with ceremonial slowness, or it may have been my age, I lowered my aching body into the soft, welcoming canvas. I sighed a sigh if relief and, for the longest time, simply stared out over the immense, shimmering emptiness of the ocean. I was home and, for the first time in many months, I felt knots of tension against the cares of winter start to ease out of my body.
I discovered again what it was like to be at peace and to do nothing but listen to the rhythms of the ocean.Looking out at the unfathomable horizon I had only one thought. What new adventures would come my way this summer, I wondered? I closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face.
Only time would tell and, now that I had found my place on the beach, I had all the time in the world.
Beach bum in residence – all is well with the world
by J. G. Fabiano.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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