Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sharing the Shade

I got to the beach early today. Before 10 a.m. I claimed a prime parking spot right next to the entrance and set up my chair in the shade of the lone palm tree.
"Mind if I share your shade?" I asked a man who had placed his chair close enough to hug the tree.
"No, Ma'am," he said with a southern accent that seemed to explain his use of a courtesy title.
Before long his wife returned from walking their reddish Pomeranian. She chattered to her husband non-stop but I was busy eating my breakfast of two clementines. I'd been up for hours. Dropped Steve off at a fishing buddy's place at 8 a.m. so I could have the van, drove to Marathon and biked out to Pigeon Key. It's a pleasant ride on an abandoned highway, two miles out, two miles back, with the sun and sea all around. But by 10 a.m. I was famished.
       While I ate I watched a family set up camp in a sunny spot. A skinny Dad in his 20s headed to the water with a diapered toddler no more than 18 months waddling behind. Mom spread a bright turquoise sheet in the sand while a  woman in her 40s, probably Grandma, arrived with a pail-carrying boy of about 3. Mom was very pregnant. She pulled off her dark T-shirt to reveal a lime green striped bikini framing her huge baby bump. Dad was knee deep in the water tossing the little girl over his head so high that I feared for her safety. But she just giggled enthusiastically.
          By the time I finished breakfast and decided to spread a towel on the sand, the shade had shifted.  I was in the sun now and a group of three Spanish-speaking girls had moved into the circle of shade cast by the palm. They jabbered excitedly as I slathered on sun screen and laid back with a big hat covering my face. As I laid in the sun, I made a game of trying to eavesdrop on their conversation using the few words of Spanish I know.
           After a while I walked down the beach. One young man was traversing the bay standing on a paddle board. Another couple was trying to share a paddle board but kept tumbling off over and over and laughing like it didn't matter.A little boy was digging a hole in the sand like a dog burying a bone, pawing the ground furiously with his hands and throwing the sand into a pile between his legs. 
           By the time I returned, the Spanish-speaking trio had left so I moved my towel into the shade. Another couple had arrived and spread their towels in  the lacy fingers of shade but mostly in the sun. In the sun beyond, two couples were lined up on towels, chattering about restaurants. After a while the women decided to pose in the surf but the husband who was supposed to be shooting their photo kept having trouble with the camera. "A little to the left. You're too far out. Oh, I zoomed in too much. The women got tired of holding their playful pose. "Take the picture will ya!"
          A little after noon a family invaded determined to capture every available inch of shade. Grandma swept up some seaweed to clear off a spot for her towel only inches from mine. A white-bearded grandpa followed right behind, as well as a father in an Indiana Jones hat, a pair of kids clutching pink and blue inflated inner tubes and a mother clicking her camera. It was clear we couldn't all fit in the small circle of shade the palm provided.
          I got up and folded my towel. "If you want the shade, go ahead," I said. "I've had it all morning."
           It was time to pack up and go to lunch anyway.


  1. Sue, my wife and I like to go to Grand Haven on the channel and "Share the Shade" with others in the summer.

    Life is like that, always little logistic battles throughout the day. Your article made me laugh as we all share similar adventures in life.

    Getting the prime parking space, the best seat in the movie theater, the restaurant, the shade of the trees etc.

    The best spot goes to the early bird or the lucky bird that arrives at the right time when others vacant. To the victor goes the spoils.


  2. The bike ride sounded really nice! as did the shade on the beach. and especially so to someone in IN on a cloudy day. You lucky girl!