We were there on the beach, just south of a wedding. Sixteen was our number. My wife and I, our twelve children, one niece (Who is really child number thirteen), and one soon to be fiancé. I had hopes the wedding reception would follow the vows as a beachhead for all of Jerry’s kids to crash. I am always inviting my family to wedding receptions. The amount of baggage we set down in the sand was comparable to a week’s worth of laundry for the average 2.5 child family.
Barbara, my wife, and I settled in two chairs close to the water and kept an eye on the children. Just one eye each, actually two of Barbara’s eyes, one of which represented my share of “watching” as I napped. I awoke to the sound of voices on the water. The same voices from forty years ago when my mother would take us to Lake Michigan. Tears welled up as the memories of chicken fights, hand stands with toes pointing at sea gulls, and waves of laughter doused my thoughts. There, out on the sand bar, for a moment, a synthesis of generations stood waist deep and I longed for my mother to sit with Barbara and me. I think she did for a moment.
Eventually we relinquished our squatting rights and gave the clarion call. “Okay, it’s time to go!” Barbara and I got up and turned from the sparkles dancing on the waves to the “urban sprawl” behind us. Chips were in the towel basket, towels were half buried and strewn like a spastic rhubarb patch, and packages of cookies were left open like barn doors. My favorite cookie, the pecan sandy, was sandy indeed.
Then the phrase exited my mouth. The one every parent says. The one my mother said over and over. “Somebody grab the…” Fill in the blank. It was a scene from the show M*A*S*H and I tried on my best Colonel Potter for just a few minutes and then grabbed an end of the huge pop cooler with Noah, my eighteen year old, and started walking. I kept listening though. That phrase “somebody grab the…” was coming out of several different mouths.
Back when I was in Jr. High I heard tell that I was “somebody”. I existed and made a difference. A smile crossed my face as Noah and I switched arms on the cooler. They were all calling for “somebody” and “nobody” answered. I knew that Barbara had instilled in them that they were “somebody” and they mattered, but right then “somebody” left the building. There they stood over the piles of their existence and yet “nobody” called for “somebody” and couldn’t find “anybody”. My mouth opened to yell again “somebody grab the…” but all that spewed out was a laugh from my belly.
What does refrigerator chess have to do with the beach? Nothing really except it made the title of this post more appealing. I’ll talk about that later.