By Dr. Gerald Leventhal
The warmth of the early morning sun has already started to heat up our old station wagon parked in the driveway. Everyone piles in with their beach gear, juice boxes, dried cereal and cookies. “Don’t forget the sun block!” someone yells out, a reminder of the family ritual of a mutual slathering-on of the thick white cream by both children and adults to avoid the dreaded scorched flesh syndrome. This day has been eagerly awaited and the countdown has now ended. Today is the day we go to Cooper’s Beach. The whole raucous hullabaloo is music to my ears. After 100 noisy minutes on the expressway and side roads, we all spill out onto the beach at Southampton.
I have been to the French Riviera. I have been to Costa del Sol. I have been to the Australian Barrier Reef. I have been to Maui. I still love the beach at Southampton the most. Here there is endless blue sky, pristine white sand as far as the eye can see and the lovely blue-green ocean. There is no need for a watch here. Time is measured by the position of the sun, the line of the incoming tide and the shadows on the sand. We are early. There is a scattering of white boats moving on the distant sea, some less visible through the morning haze. Overhead the sun is a yellow ball getting larger. On the beach there is a patchwork of bright colors: umbrellas, blankets, chairs, baskets and towels. There are the usual inert sunbathers but boundless energy is also present everywhere. Sand is being excavated, water is being diverted. There are sandcastles, sculptures and large holes to China. Footballs, baseballs, volleyballs are all airborne. The sharp slap of the Kadima ball on the wooden paddle is unmistakable.
At the ocean’s edge are a myriad of human shapes and forms, jumping, diving and swimming amidst the ocean’s roar. This is a very special time to me. My eyes record and my brain rejoices at the sight of my wife and three children surrendering themselves to the eccentricities of the surf. They squeal, scream and laugh while the waves break over, around and under them. I suddenly become aware that in all of my life this is one of my happiest moments. What do I feel? Exhilaration? Bliss? Mostly thankfulness! I am here in the moment, all systems are go and I am aware and appreciate all that this glorious day has produced. And then, all too soon, the sun, like our energy, begins to dwindle. We all clean up at the public shower, get into clean clothes and make the short drive to our favorite dinner spot for lobster. Someone has left a white Porsche convertible parked at the side of the restaurant. I convince everyone to pose alongside the car. It will be a great picture. Incredibly, through only a one and a half inch viewfinder, I see what I love most on this planet. There is my wife and our three children looking tan, fit, relaxed and happy, casually leaning up against that white Porsche, the fading sun still reflecting light off their hair and smiles. “Let’s eat” everyone shouts in unison – and we do.
The Lobster Inn is happily noisy. All the tables are filled with patrons busily engaged in disjointing lobsters, crabs, mussels and whatever else the sea has provided for these sundrenched revelers. The whole scene is reminiscent of a Breugel painting, with all the happy villagers consumed by the joy of eating. Soon our bellies are filled, our muscles are pleasantly fatigued and our brains are calm. The sun has already started to disappear and a light breeze gently lifts off the bay. We return to our “chariot” for the ride home; each face wears a smile.
Sometime in the future – who knows when? – should I need to go to a calm place, I know that the images I retain of Southampton will surely resurface.