When 81-year-old Marjorie was a child she spent summers with Aunt Addie on the Massachusetts coast, in a charming spot called Huma Rock Beach. She loved those carefree vacations with Marilyn, her younger sister, and Betty Lou, Dottie and Herbert, her cousins. We are blessed to be going there for a reunion in September.
The picturesque refuge from the world is barely touched by the insatiable monster of progress. I love to hear the stories, and push her for details from those old days. Mostly she remembers not taking a bath.
Aunt Addie did provide a big tub of water by the back door to remind ten little sand encrusted feet to take a quick dunk before coming in for food or sleep.
Other than that, there is no recollection of formal bathing with soap and shampoo and towels and such. These are still very healthy and sharp ladies who insist the ocean kept them clean.
I press for specifics surrounding this idyllic time, so I ask her to tell me about a typical day, from the moment they got out of bed until they were back again, clean feet and all.
As if it were yesterday, and without missing a beat, she spiels off their usual itinerary.
“We would jump up bright and early and put on our bathing suits. They were made of wool then and in a short time were sagging and itchy, but that is what we wore. We had things to do and places to go.”
She shows me some incredibly preserved photographs of the ragtag beach bunch. They are so cute I just want to step back in time and hug them all. Little Herbie is a doll; the only boy, and without a smile. It must be because he is so obviously outnumbered.
Marjorie is tall for her age. She and Marilyn have beautiful red hair, with lovely fair skin. She says there was no such thing as sunscreen and Aunt Addie never dreamed how harsh a burn could be to those sensitive complexions.
Marjorie’s dad was deceased. Sometimes her mother, who worked in a bank in a small town inland, near Worcester, would take off a weekend and join her girls at the beach house. Otherwise, she sent a letter every day.
Well, it was not exactly a letter. Marjorie felt a great compulsion to keep up with Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy, so her mother sent the funny papers to her just to make sure she wouldn’t miss anything.
After breakfast, the five young beachcombers jumped up on the seawall that began right at the edge of the two-story house. They followed this pretend sidewalk the whole way to the village post office, at least one mile.
One wonders about this very calm and cool aunt of theirs who never seemed to worry about them. I ask if she ever offered any kind of warnings about danger. The only thing Marjorie could think of was the constant admonition to, “watch for the undertow.”
They would wade into the water and gaze at the mysterious ocean. I was sure she was going to tell me they would watch their toes, but no, it was to see if they could detect any wayward currents. Aunt Addie meant well, but sadly, she could not swim. Guardian beach angels must have been working overtime.
After the return walk home on the seawall, they would play, swim, and build sand castles; then run to the big covered porch to make a quick slop through the clean foot -water. A delicious lunch usually included fish. Marjorie hated it. Marilyn loved it. I did not hear how Betty Lou, Dottie and Herb felt about it.
On rainy days they stayed inside and played cards: Old Maid. Herbert must have been beside himself with delight. Marjorie doesn’t recall any other games. She just remembers how well they all got along.
The only ones left of the original gang are Marjorie, Marilyn and Herbert. I met him at last year’s reunion on his huge farm in South Carolina. He smiles now and is still very cute.
In September, I hope the smell of the ocean will catapult their lively minds back to an age of innocence when life was just so fine for them. I know one thing for sure; there will be more laughing than crying.
Maybe I can convince them to go with me into the village to the post office… yes, barefoot and on the seawall.
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