It was a perfect, sunny day here in Michigan; surprising, after the intense thunderstorm that had pounded the skylights in the wee hours of the morning. We – two grandparents, four parents, and four young children – spent the morning at the Discovery Museum in St. Joseph since the trees were dripping and the ground was soaked.
As soon as our little ones awoke from their well-deserved naps, however, we were ready to go. Laden with beach toys, picnic blankets, towels, a big bag of drinks, and enough sandwiches to feed an army, we headed for the beach. Not having been on the beach outing the day before (because we Mommies were busy getting lost on unmarked back roads with a nearly-empty gas tank in search of a grocery store), I only understood that the walk involved some mosquito-infested woods and a staircase down to the beach.
I was somewhat surprised, therefore, when we came to the steep, rickety wooden stairs that led us through muddy terrain. Turns out, our house is essentially on a cliff. The “sink hole” on one step and the portions without handrails were also unexpected. I found myself somewhat anxious, juggling a big beach blanket while simultaneously trying to get Lyle down those stairs, my sweaty, slippery hand clutching his, but when we made it, the beautiful white sand beach on the shore of Lake Michigan was worth the precarious trek. We joked (sort of) about the walk back up, but consoled ourselves with the fact that the food and drink bags would be lighter.
While the engineers among us worked to divert a “river” that ran along the beach in new and fascinating ways, others ran headfirst into the water. I popped lime green goggles over Lyle’s big brown eyes, and in we went, my water-loving boy and me. We swam, we jumped, and we waded far out until we got to a big sand bar where he could stand on his own again. Others joined us, and we marveled over the colors of the blue sky. “Look, Lyle,” I instructed in wonder, “Over there, Sweetie: the sky here is so light blue - but in that direction,” I pointed to the west, “it’s a beautiful darker blue.” I was pleased to point out the permutations of his favorite color in this natural setting.
After a while, the breeze picked up, and I suggested we get out of the water and play on the beach. It was chillier to be standing on the sand bar than I’d expected. Lyle, his Oma and I sat in the sand and played. Matt called my name and gestured that we should come to the picnic blankets. “Okay, Lyle, I think it’s time to eat now! Let’s rinse off our hands in the lake,” and off we went. But as I got closer, I saw that the others appeared not to be unpacking dinner but actually to be folding blankets and towels, worried expressions on their faces. Kids were fussing about a sudden departure. I looked again at those lovely blue clouds and it turned out they were a lot closer than they had been.
And all of a sudden, they looked less a little less beautiful and a lot more…threatening.
[Stayed tuned for Part Two...]