Third Street Beach, Emerald Isle, NC

There are days when we yearn for simpler times.  If we are lucky, we have memories that keep alive the good times that we had when we were children. When we were young, the burdens of modern life hardly existed.

I remember those times well.  My mother was raising me as a single parent.  She worked long hours fifty weeks a year as a beautician.   She often worked late into the evening, and I even learned to cook a bit at an early age because of that.  Saturday mornings were devoted to doing the hair of our many relatives.  I don’t think she ever charged them for her time.

After all that hard work, there were always two weeks in the summer dedicated to vacation. Having those two weeks of time away from work was a critical part of life.  Mostly we went to the North Carolina beaches.  There were not many that we missed from Kure to Nags Head.  I hardly remember the cottages that we rented except that air conditioning and swimming pools were not part of the deal.  We had simple cottages often a block or two from the beach.

But we didn’t go to the beach because of swimming pools, internet connectivity, media rooms, or fitness centers.  We went to the beach for the beach and to walk the streets in the evening.  We enjoyed maybe one big meal out during the week, but mostly we lived off tomato sandwiches and food that we brought from home.   We didn’t come to the beach for the food either.

In the fifties and sixties, you came to the beach for the sun, sand, and surf.  If you loved fishing there was also room for that.  We also came to the beach to meet some new people and to have fun riding the waves.  We spent most of our time in the water and perhaps broke the week up with a few rounds of putt-putt.

For kids who spent most of their after-school time at home roaming the fields and woods of Piedmont North Carolina, the beach was an exotic place.  It was a treat to come to the beach because a lot of kids never made it on vacation much less to the beach.

Times have changed, and I suspect it is harder and harder to interest today’s children in a simple pleasure like the beach.  It is hard to listen to the waves if you have an iPod plugged into your head.  It is a challenge riding the waves if you cannot put down the controller to your game machine.

I have often thought that one of the greatest gifts in life is to be able to entertain yourself in any situation. That’s actually pretty easy to do on a beach if you have learned to let the waves wash away your cares and turn your thoughts inside out.

The secret is being able to focus in the moment and let everything else drift away.  If we can leave one lesson with the next generation, perhaps a good one would be teaching them to appreciate sand, water, and wind. A lot of fun in my life has resulted from just those simple elements.

Each time I walk the beach, it takes me back to those days when sun, surf, and water were all that mattered.  I’m glad the beach is only ten minutes from my house and a regular stop for me.