Plus Ca Change
Plus ca Change I watch the sun glisten on his small but muscular body as he runs towards the breaking waves- then quickly turns on his heels and races towards me shouting victoriously, “Nana. Did ya see that?” My little Poseidon surfing the sea. I stand there in wonder as I recall another little boy, so similar in build and gleeful temperament, running towards me from the breaking waves, screeching, “Mommy did ya see that?” Yes my boys. I see your wondrous selves. I came to the East End for the salutary ocean air. Like Mann’s Castorp seeking a cure in the rarified air of the magic mountain, I brought my asthmatic three-year old boy to the sea and the salt air so he could breathe more easily. And I fell in love with its beaches returning for 40 summers to various communities on the East End -from Shelter Island to the Springs to East Hampton and now to my daughter’s house in Southampton where my grandson enjoys the thrills of the ocean with that other little boy (now 43), his uncle, who carries him on his shoulders and runs into the deep sea. Both are laughing with delight and I hear the waves echo- mommy did ya see that? Son…grandson…with each generation I have replicated the experience. The family treks across the sand carrying myriad beach paraphernalia following the one who likes to sit as far from the crowd as possible. Finally, when all are in agreement, we set down the umbrella that billows in the wind and place colorful beach towels in a row with beach chairs in a semi-circle, forming a protective barrier announcing to others that “this is our space.” The coolers are filled with tuna sandwiches and cantaloupe slices, various snacks and drinks. The little girl fills her pail with sand; the older boy builds castles and moats. The men have a go at volleyball. The women take care, putting sunscreen on the children, making sure they drink enough water, passing out the food, warily watching so no child loses his way. There is easy conversation and soft laughter among the adults and much frolicking and running down to the ocean’s edge. One of the men dives into a huge wave and swims too far and the family calls to him to swim back in. There is much joy! 1973 or 2014. Plus ca change… And I sit surveying the scene in serene satisfaction. Although I am no longer the young mother whose child needs the assurance of my hand, I am still a strong woman who can lift my grandson up in the air and swing him above the waves (like the kettle bells I work out with in the gym). I can still run with the boy, this time the grandson, who challenges me to race him along the shoreline. We look for sand crabs and put them in a small pail but then we “throw them back to nature” – a phrase my son remembers well which my grandson now states with the same earnestness and innocence. Plus c’est Ia meme chose- so much so that often my grandson asks, “Nana, why do you call me uncle’s name?” I have orchestrated these scenarios. I made sure to have instilled the love of the East End in my children and my grandchildren. They, too, relish the rhythmic routine of gathering the beach chairs and umbrellas and packing the cooler and, with the children in tow, carrying it all across the sand, my son-in-law burdened with dragging the cart like Repin’s Barge Haulers on the Volga until the just right spot is selected. We are here – three generations together- enjoying the beauty and simplicity of summers at Cooper’s Beach in Southampton. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.