I’ll post more about our visit to Palawan Beach over at the Singapore Blog later this week. Here I wanted to talk about the experience of taking E to a beach, something I’d only done once before.
Last summer, when Elanor was 8, kissing up on 9 months of age, we went to San Francisco. On the long weekend we added to Ravi’s work vacation, we drove down to Santa Cruz, California to see the boardwalk. In high school I had a pen pal (long since lost touch with-if I could remember her last name, I’d try to find her on FB) who lived there, so I wanted to see the places she’d talked about. I took E out onto the sand and watched her explore.
She lifted the sand and watched it fall, rubbed her hands in it, and was generally interested in it, but was kind of at a loss as to what to do with it.
Then I took her down by the water, where the sand was more interesting to her. Wet, it could easily take the shape of a finger or a foot, or a whole hand.
I then tried to have her sit near the waterline so I could get a great picture of something…but the tide was coming in faster than I thought and she was knocked over by water that came up far faster and higher than I expected. I’m lucky the camera didn’t go for a swim as I grabbed Ella and pulled her up out of the water as it was knocking her ass over teakettle. She was pissed at me, and that was the end of our time on the beach part of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Don’t feel sorry for her…she ended up riding an amusement park ride and winning a turtle (with daddy’s help) at a kiddy game.
This past week, we took her to Palawan, which is located on the resort island (sort of island…it’s attached to Singapore via a short bridge…a good swimmer could (but wouldn’t) swim from Vivo City Mall to the shore of Sentosa easily. I’m actually a good enough swimmer to swim that and I’m not winning any contests. Palawan has the honor of being designated the Southernmost Point in Continental Asia (or rather the teeny little island connected to Palawan by a footbridge does.
We decided to swim on the part of the beach near that sign, and once I got done taking pictures and irritating E who wanted out of her stroller, we got down to business.
As you can see, Elanor is all about water these days.
Perhaps too much. She’s standing…this is not a trick shot.
She didn’t make castles or mudpies out of the wet sand, but she had a blast digging in it and draping her turtle in it.
Later she decided climbing rocks was fun
Watching Elanor, I was reminded of being a kid, and I thought about how magical the beach was to me.
I lived in a small town in Massachusetts called Ayer. The local beach was called “Sandy Pond Beach.” It had a slightly rusty (rustier as the years went on) play ground, scrubby grass, then sand. There were two docks; one in an inverted U, which also marked the area that we younger kids could go without an adult, and then, what seemed acres away, there was just a floating rectangle of a dock for the older kids and grown ups to go sunbathe on and dive off of. The shallow water was fairly clear, but I remember that the closer you got to the closer dock, you could start to feel plants (and the occasional fish) brush your legs.
My mom would make sure I had everything I needed, and then, as I watched in awe and envy, she would swim out to the far dock, do a graceful dive, and swim back to check on me again before going back out. I’m not sure it went exactly like that, I know for a fact she’d play with me, but when I think about the beach I think about how impressed I was that my mom was among those special people and wanting desperately to be like her when I grew up. I wanted nothing more than to go out to that dock because the dock meant being special, being talented (I swam in a very floppy awkward way), being grown up.
I’ve swam in many places since then, but in my heart I’m pretty sad that I never went back there (we were living a town over and six-eight years later before I was really a good enough swimmer to make it to the dock on my own…without backstroking, which would have been cheating in my eyes…or I could dive).
By then I was diving off a stone ledge into a pond so small it didn’t have a name with no lifeguard, and leeches on the other side (so we kids knew to stay away from there); the sort of scenario that today would get my mom in MAJOR trouble as anything the least bit less than 400% safe is cause for police/DCF involvement. I have so many fond memories of that pond. Young enough to still love imaginative play, the ledge was the side of a boat I was leaping off of to avoid marrying a horrible man/ to save my love. I was a princess there, a mermaid, a pirate. I never knew what might await me at the pond…
I haven’t thought about that pond in years, either. The stone ledge was divided by boards that controlled the flow of the ponds water into a little stream. In later years, several of the boards would be removed, making it too shallow to dive off of (I’m guessing by parents far less free-range than mine or the town, afraid of a lawsuit). The pond’s weeds also encroached and finally took over the part of the water that we’d swam in for years. Finally, the town put up a do not swim sign, making it a pond only for fishers, and a fond memory for those of us lucky enough to swim there.
Elanor is spending our time in Singapore with a swimming pool. But the thing is, swimming pools aren’t like ponds, lakes, or beaches. They’re fun, but they’re antiseptic. I have memories of pools, but nothing as visceral or fun as those two ponds. I want Elanor, as an adult to look back and think about some places with the same sweet whimsy I feel when I think about Sandy Pond and the pond with the ledge. Granted, I don’t know that Palawan is that sort of place, but it has far more potential than our backyard pool.