Late in the Season

Charlie boogie boarding on a late August afternoon We went to the beach yesterday, for the first time in almost one and a half weeks—a bit of a long hiatus for a beachy sort of family. We'd skipped going last weekend as there tends to be a lot of traffic on the Garden State Parkway on Saturday and Sunday mornings; while Jim knows quite a few backroads to get us to the ocean, these involve a lot more driving and (believe it or not) one can only drive so much + ride bikes on increasingly long rides with an increasingly in-shape 13-year-old. Too, the beach is more crowded on weekends: As a result of our many trips in the 'off-season,' I suspect Charlie got used to having the beach all to ourselves and prefers it that way.

The ride down the Garden State Parkway was smooth and incredibly fast and there was a 'late in the season' over the beach: Plenty of people were there with umbrellas and beach chairs, but it was a thinned-out crowd from those scorching bright days of July. The sky alternated between a blue-grey and sunshine. The waves were big in a lazy rolling kind of way and the current wasn't strong and there was a sandbar, so you could go quite far out and wide.

Charlie got a short ride in on his boogie board and then swam. Jim and I each stood near one of the lifeguard's orange flags—we're lifeguard flags of a human sort, I suppose you might say—and we both watched as Charlie turned his back to the ocean and swam back, headfirst and on his back, into one, two, three, four, five waves. 'See that?' we both called out to each other as Charlie bodysurfed to shore.

'Towel,' said Charlie.

'Just a little more swimming, Cholly!" said Jim.

I decided to go in too. My presence in the ocean has been known to stoke a consternated 'Mom get out of my space' look in Charlie's face. But yesterday he grinned and laughed and I was immediately reminded of my landlubber status when I turned and saw a big wave coming to land smack on top of me, so I jumped under it. I emerged into the sunlight, salt water stinging my eyes—goggles just make it worse for me; Charlie himself always goes au naturel, with a general mantra for him in the water being, the less equipment, the better.

Not surprisingly, I got out before him and then Jim went in. Mostly they jumped waves and swam in the general vicinity of each other but, at one moment, I saw Jim saying something to Charlie and holding his hand, just for a bit. Even though I could just see the outline of his face, I could tell that Charlie was smiling.

At one point I saw Charlie drifting near the imaginary line of one of the orange flags, along with a couple other teenagers. The lifeguard blew his whistle and, while Charlie didn't show any response to hearing this, he turned on his own and walked a couple of feet back towards the lifeguards' stands. That's a first, for Charlie to turn himself around in the water; I think he may have done so because the other swimmers were, too.

Charlie and Jim at the start of a beach bike ride

Afterwards Charlie and Jim rode their bikes up and back for a total of about 14 miles. (I spent the time getting items for a late-ish lunch.) Jim had wanted to try a kayak ride too, but concluded that this was best left for a day in the future.

There was minimal traffic as we drove home. Jim and I kept thinking it was Saturday. And when I remembered that it was, indeed, Thursday, I felt like I was playing hookie, and felt really, extremely, overarchingly grateful that we're able to have ample time off in the summer to be such active members of Camp Charlie.

Today is my first day teaching in the fall semester. Since I taught summer school—and since it's been full-time Camp Charlie—it doesn't feel like a huge adjustment to be back to work in the classroom. What is new is having all of my teaching (except for a tutorial or two) concentrated on two days of the week. I'll still be going into work at least two other days but it's a very good feeling to know that if I can't for some (Charlie) reason or other, I won't have to go through any elaborate arrangements to communicate with my students about what to do in my absence.

Once home, Jim took a more than well-deserved rest and Charlie settled down to use the computer. I wiped up a great deal of sand from the floor and packed my bag with too many books and a thick pile of syllabi, plus my laptop—the one disadvantage of teaching most of my classes on one day is that I have to carry everything at once. Of course, my students (many of whom are commuters) already have to do this.

Since I'll be taking the train, I'll be backpacking the load—which, compared to some worries I've carried over these past years, is manageable—is, indeed, quite light.

It's a new season.

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