A day at Wingaersheek Beach last week proved enlightening. Carli had successfully worn me down about going. It isn't that I don't like the beach. I just have a different idea about what to do there than an active 4 year old girl. Carli squeals and hops toward the water as soon as we put our things down. She delights in the surf with a beaming joy, begging her reluctant mom with "C'mon Mama, c'mon! Come in with me!". My aching toes and ankles shock in the frigid water. She is pulling me like a dog who doesn't know how to walk on a leash with her little arm dragging me further in. We will do this about 10 times. We can't just stay in. We have to leave as soon as we get numb and go play in the sand for 15 minutes and then run back to the water again. Occasionally this mantra is interrupted by chasing seagulls while yelling 'boo!'. To Carli, this proves to be hysterical. She can barely keep her running pace from the laughter. I am running out of steam about a 1/2 hr into our trip.
My idea of the beach is to park myself in my sand chair, fix it to a slight recline and dig my heels in the sand until it feels comfortable and stay there. I like to bring a stack of magazines that I have no time for at home and leisurely flip as I either redecorate my home or put together a haute couture wardrobe for the upcoming season all from the laziness of the shore while listening to the hum of fellow beach goers and the slap of the ocean waves. There is little reason to leave my station. Imagine my distress when my little baby grew to walk then run and didn't consider the wishes of her mother while visiting the beach. If I want to read a magazine these days, I have to get used to reading it in 5 minute increments and only when Carli is satisfied to dig by herself for a spell. No, my fond summer respite has become a mission to corral someone who can't swim and is too friendly to not want to wander off with whomever pays attention to her.
I endure it because she likes it. We get to be together and I watch my child enjoy herself even if it means that I have to run around and try to keep up with her while I opine for my chair. Wingaersheek Beach was a first time trip for Carli. I was happy to find showers, bathrooms and a snack shack so close to the shore and Carli was elated to find a sign that she could recognize, a picture of an ice cream.
"Ice cream, Mama!" she sang out as I held her little hand in my right and tried to hold and balance everything else with my left.
"Yup, later. Okay?", I tried to reassure her that it was coming but not right now.
Who doesn't like a frozen treat after a day at the beach? I couldn't blame her. I just didn't want to indulge her at 10 in the morning. We had to visit the rest room two times and each time I heard the same thing, "Can I get an ice cream, Mama?".
It came time for lunch which we ate at the snack shack. I didn't bring much for myself and I knew if I was going to buy lunch for me, I'd need to get some for her. She would not be happy with Goldfish and cut up Smart Dogs while watching mom eat something that came in a cardboard box and wax paper. We sidled up to the window with a smiling face peering out and placed our order. The cost of our lunches, most of hers of which I tossed in the garbage, cost about as much as the interest on the national debt. Lunch plus the cost of parking took all but a dollar out of my wallet. No worries, ice cream would still be had. I just would use my debit card.
I announced that we'd get ice creams when we were leaving. No need to get them now, we just ate. When the beach ran it's course with Carli after many sessions of dragging mom into the water, chasing the poor water birds, digging and seashell hunts, she announced that it was time to go home. I agreed. I was exhausted. We packed up and made our way to the snack shack, discussing what she wanted before we could even see the building. We returned to the ordering window and my heart sank as I read the sign, "Credit Card Purchases -$10 Minimum Requirement". I certainly wasn't going to buy 10 dollars worth of stuff for a 2 dollar ice cream. I looked down at my wide-eyed little girl and tried to gently explain the situation.
"Honey, Mama doesn't have any cash on her and the man won't let Mama buy the ice cream with her debit card."
Sadness and confusion covered her face and her smile disappeared as she tried to take in what I said. I felt so terrible that I was doing to have to disappoint her. My mind ran with remorse over not just paying for lunch with the debit card and leaving more cash in my wallet. I thought of how foolish it was of me not to check beforehand. I also didn't want her to start crying. I tried to explain again and smooth it over with a promise to get ice cream somewhere else. She didn't want to go elsewhere, she wanted the treat I had been promising her all day and she wanted it at the beach. As I continued to reassure her a woman came up to me and held out her hand.
"Here, just take this." she smiled and stuck out 2 dollars and 50 cents in my direction.
I hesitated. I was so touched by her generosity and strangely ashamed to take it from her. She stuck her hand out again and I took the money from her grasp slowly, thanking her with a sincere quiet humility. I ordered Carli's ice cream and took it back to our spot for her to enjoy. The waves of shame still washed over me as I watched her eat it. I felt silly for feeling that way. I didn't do anything wrong and I wasn't a charity case and even if I was, couldn't I allow someone to bless my daughter?
This woman had two children with her. She understood what it was like to let a little one down. She wanted to save the day and I almost didn't want her to. I had forgotten in that moment what a gift it is to bless other people, especially when the blessing is anonymous. As I reflected on what had happened, I realized what a gift I had given her by allowing her to bless my daughter. The times I have bestowed this on others were the moments of the greatest joy. There was a much bigger gift here than just a 2 dollar ice cream. I connected with another human being in love. To me, that is worth not having enough money in my wallet. Who ever you are, Ma'am, thank you.
Don't Pray For Me
5 years ago