Tuesday, May 26, 2009
When I was a kid, I spent my summers at Guthrie Beach. We went every day. My dad would go off to work, and my mother would pack beach towels and soda, coffee and lunch, and off we'd go.
When we arrived, always driving the five or so blocks - they were long blocks - the beachboy would already have the low sand chairs set up for my mother and her friends.
They would sit in a semi-circle, facing the sun, and facing the water just enough to keep an eye on us. They'd drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and slather themselves with tanning lotion. "SPF"? Isn't that the stuff you put in engines to keep them running clean?
When they went in the water, they all kept their heads and hair out, even if they were swimming.
All day, women from other beaches, and other areas of our beach, would walk past and stop to talk. All day. From about 8 in the morning to about 4 in the afternoon, this was their lives.
At the time, I thought nothing of it. My mother was gorgeous, and all her friends were gorgeous. They had great tans and great figures, and they talked and laughed all day. The rest of the year, their lives were about taking care of the kids and the house, a job whose huge dimensions I now recognize. But in the summer, it seemed that Mom and her friends spent the days just goofing off at the beach.
And really, maybe, they did. Maybe that was one of the reasons she loved Guthrie Beach so much.
Mom asked that we gather at Guthrie to remember her, and to scatter her ashes, and so we did. My guess is that when she thought of all the places where she'd been happy, it was this place, with the surf and the sun, the wide, bright summer days, her kids safe and happy, and her tanned, talkative friends around her, this is what she held warm and close in her heart.
The day I made this painting, the wind was blowing in cold and crisp off the Sound. The sun was bright, but the air chilly. The two women walking could have been mother and daughter, or they could have been friends. Or they could have been both.