The other day I went to the beach.
Or as they say in these parts, DOWN THE SHORE. Even though one is really not going DOWN anywhere from here in Philadelphia.
So it is morning and I am excited for THE BEACH. I am especially excited because I am meeting Friend 1. She and her husband are coming from Brooklyn to meet us at a beach in the middle of our two locations. I have not seen her in seven months.
I wake up and I do all the things: Go for a run. Have the coffee. Do the yoga. Have a meditation. And start the beach pack up, including turkey wraps for the whole family made by yours truly.
When it is 9AM it is time to go. I tell the house: “Time to go!”
But, the house is running a little late. First daughter comes down the stairs. Then Philly comes down the stairs. By the time we leave it is 9:20AM.
“We have to meet Friend 1!” I say. “Plus, I am losing valuable beach time!”
Luckily, there is no traffic. There is no traffic since we are driving on Monday, right smack in the middle of the July 4th holiday stretch.
Yes, I planned it that way.
By 10:50AM we are at the beach! We get a spot right near the boardwalk. Quickly, we trot out to the boardwalk where we also quickly remember that in New Jersey they have a thing called BEACH TAGS. I do not understand the Beach Tag system reader. Where I come from in Brooklyn we do not have this system. You either just walk onto the FREE beach, or you pay a fee to park a car at the beach.
Inside me I feel it is just not right. This charging people to go on the beach. Plus, you have to pay cash. Do we have enough cash onhand? No, we do not.
“Oh my GOD!” I say to the boardwalk. Because now I have to wait to get on the beach while Philly kindly walks down to get cash and purchase the beach tags.
While I am waiting I text Friend 1. Turns out she is somehow at a different beach. Or we think it is a different beach. In the end it really is the same beach but with a little Friend 1 confusion, which is a thing that happens.
Finally, we get ON the beach. I see the waves. I see the watery horizon. And then I see Friend 1. I run right up to her and give her a big giant hug. “I miss you!” I say.
After he puts down the 20 pound cooler packed with all the food Friend 1 ALWAYS brings, Friend 1 Husband gives me a hug and goes into the water. He likes to swim. If they would allow him, he would swim along the shore for a long time. But they will not allow him.
Right away Friend 1 and I start the eating and the talking on many subjects. Friend 1 is the only person I have ever known who can also have five conversations at once. Plus, since I have known her almost 30 years, we practically read each other’s minds.
I tell her all about THE STUDIO. I tell her how busy everything has been and all the decisions and negotiations and general constant working. And how happy I am to be venturing out again. And how terrifying it is, of course.
Friend 1 is very happy for me. I tell her I have a lot of support, but still, I wish she were with me.
“Maybe someday you will move to Philadelphia.” I say.
Then I tell her, “You know we live next to a duck now.”
This is actually true. Every morning I hear it quacking away. Especially when it rains.
Friend 1 Husband returns. “Duck?” he says.
“Yep.” I say.
I look back onto the blanket and Philly is in full BEACH NAP mode. It does not take him long to fall asleep. Today he is lying on his back, ball cap on, hopefully not getting a sunburn.
“Should we go for a walk?” Friend 1 asks.
I look at her. I look at her because Friend 1 is famously known for asking this question back when we would go to The Rockaways in NYC. And I would say yes. And we would wind up walking at least a mile, maybe more. She would keep saying: Oh, just a little further, just to those rocks.
And then it would be to the next set of rocks. And so on.
You get the picture.
So I tell her, “I am only going if we do not have to walk like three miles.”
We walk down around the rocks and come to a little cove. You would not know the cove existed from where we had been sitting. But it is in fact like a little lagoon. There are scads of small children thrashing about and running back and forth. Really, it is like another world.
We talk about the Friend 1 new career. She is a Social Worker now. She went back to school after her two children left the nest. Even I was a little unsure about this particular career at this particular time. But she is doing it. She shows me pictures of all the crafts she makes with her client groups.
“Wow!” I say.
We keep walking and there is ANOTHER cove. This one with even more children than the first. Now it is almost impossible to continue walking it is so crowded with families.
“We have to go back.” I say.
“Ok.” she says.
When we get back to the blanket I decide to lay right on top of Philly who is now on his belly.
“Ugh!” he says.
Friend 1 takes a picture.
“Come on!” I tell him. You have to see THE COVE!
And I hold his hand as we go for our own little beach walk.
Somehow, I really do not know how exactly, Philly falls right into a wave which proceeds to knock him over.
Ok. I cannot help it. I laugh. But it is ok because he is laughing too, trying to gain his ground to stand. Walking along the shore with him, I feel like we are on vacation. And in my heart I still hope someday we get to take the honeymoon we never did manage to take.
Now daughter wants ice cream. “Ice cream?” I say. “You need food. You are going to get a big headache.”
It is decided we will go in search of food. And ice cream. As we are packing up Friend 1 is desperately looking for her watch. Friend 1 Husband is raking the sand.
“It is here somewhere.” I say. “You just had it.”
This is a common occurrence, this misplacement.
“I bet it is in a bag. We will look when we get to the boardwalk.” I say.
And…the lost watch IS in a bag. Buried deep in MY bag. Through the magic of Friend 1 placement.
“I need to use the beach shower.” I say, because I have so much sand in my bathing suit. Luckily both daughter and I have brought dry clothes with us and are quite skilled at the surfer girl towel drapery changing. We shower off and change right there on the boardwalk.
We head out to forage for food. We find food. And ice cream. And it is GOOOOD. Because we have been on the beach all day. And food and ice cream are always so good when you have been on the beach all day.
Afterwards we talk some more and stroll along and look at all the shops. I find a Ganesh shirt and a shawl.
Yes, I buy them.
And now it is time to go. As we head back to the car we see a bunch of geese and a few baby geese and one chicken-duck type bird. Standing on the corner I give Friend 1 a hug. I wish so much she lived closer. I wish she could be part of THE STUDIO. It is hard to be so far away from her now. She in Brooklyn and I in Philadelphia.
“I hope I will see you soon Friend 1. Sooner than seven months.”
“Yes.” she says.
We separate. I feel a little part of my heart go walking away with her.
That is how it is when you have a very good friend for a long, long time.
A tiny piece of your heart always resides with them, with all the things you have shared, and now with all the stories you have to tell.
I love you Friend 1.
I miss you. I miss when I used to see you all the time. All the Saturday morning runs we went on. Everything.
Until we meet again.