Beach Memories 1969

Holden Beach, North Carolina, 1969

My cousin Catherine pulls the fridge door open and picks up the cobalt blue jar of thick, white Noxzema.

“It’s cold now.”

She puts me on the picnic bench next to the table in the rented house by the sea, where we snacked on white bread bologna sandwiches wet by yellow mustard, salted and crunched by chips, washed down with chocolate milk because the water smells and tastes like sulphur, yuck. She sits behind me and pulls my tank top down. My skin’s on fire, the color of sunset.

Eucalyptus invades the humid air, icicles up the nose. Cold, then blazing pain.  I do not smile like the cute Coppertone girl with the doggie pulling her swimsuit down.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, 2013

My mother strides the dense strip of barely wet sand that lies between the waves and the white hillocks that lead to the striped green tent. She wears a beach hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, long pants, socks, white tennis shoes and SPF 70 sunscreen.

“They did not have sunscreen then,” she says. She tells how anger took hold of her when she realized my aunt Bessie had left her fair-skinned child in the sun with her own tawny brown children whose genes forgave them noon-time seaside dalliances. I did not know there had been a ‘discussion.’

The wind tugs our hats up as we hold them down.

“We need an old-fashioned bonnet – with strings to tie,” I say.

“My mother told me to stay out of the sun. I didn’t listen,” she says.

Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. we read inside, the air-conditioner whish waving solace over us, replacing wave sounds and the cries of children at play in the hot sandy daylight of Hilton Head Island beach.

Early in the morning, slathered in sunscreen, hats tweaking our ears, we take our bikes to the shaded bike paths and pump our legs up and down, up and down, like two kids on a swing set. We laugh at the sun spots and age spots between our knuckles and wrists.

They are already there and we are here, now, smiling.

-by Sybil McLain-Topel

©Sybil McLain-Topel and, 2013-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from Sybil McLain-Topel is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, however, please give full and clear credit to Sybil McLain-Topel and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A few notes this week about the blog. The photo at the top was taken (by me) at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, my favorite place to walk. The lenses represent the different ways I see life and write about it. If you look closely, you can see my image because I’m wearing a striped shirt, something I noticed recently.

Why Ruby’s rules on my Facebook page? Ruby is a fictional character in my book in progress. I hope you enjoy what you read and share with others. Thanks for following along as I pursue this writing dream of mine. I hope the writing brings you pleasure and I look forward to your comments.


One thought on “Beach Memories 1969

  1. To this day, the smell of Noxema reminds me of some of my favorite childhood memories. Whenever I’m feeling down, I take a whiff and am transported to my childhood in Miami, where at least one day a week each summer was spent at the beach. However, it wasn’t the surf or sand I remember fondly, but rather eating ice cold grapes in my over-sized t-shirt while watching TV from a brown vinyl bean bag chair with the AC cooling my tender skin. That was the life…circa 1982 in my case.


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