I am pleased to welcome debut author, Jennifer S. Brown, to Great Thoughts today. Her excellent novel, Modern Girls, came out in April and is available to purchase here. Please note that I adore this author even if she is not a beach person. Opposites attract, right?
Living in the suburbs of Boston, I’m amused every summer when my friends flock to the beach weekend after weekend, to lie out in the sun, drink beers, read books, and occasionally foray into a freezing cold ocean. Invitations to join my friends come regularly. So I went. Once. We drove to Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, a truly beautiful spot. The ocean is stunning. Tide pools hold hermit crabs for the kids to observe. It’s so New England that there’s even a lighthouse.
After forty-five minutes I was ready to go home.
Saying you’re not “a beach person” is not a popular position to take in the Bay State. But I grew up on the beach. Miami Beach, to be specific. And going to the beach is something you did on winter weekends when there was simply nothing else to do. No one was crazy enough to bear the summer sun on that scorching hot sand. The water in winter felt like a lukewarm bath; in the heat of July it was not even close to refreshing. Back then, Miami Beach was not the trendy place-to-be-seen. In the 1980s, Miami Beach was a decrepit, broken-down town filled with gorgeous buildings in a state of decay, flanking an eroding coastline. If you weren’t noshing on the free pickles on the tables at Wolfie’s while scarfing down a plate of fries or grabbing an ice cream at the Baskin Robbins on Lincoln Road, there was nothing to do.
My tolerance for beaches is this: Jumping into the ocean after a hot morning run, taking a walk along the shore at sunset, digging for shells with the kids as the tide rolls out. Beaches have their good points. But a beach is something that’s five minutes away, where you can spend a half hour and then go home. It’s not an outing that requires an hour’s drive with a full day’s worth of food, twelve beach chairs, three bottles of sunscreen, and a stack of books.
You know how I enjoyed spending my summers when I was a teen? In my air-conditioned bedroom or by a friend’s shaded pool with my current “must read” book in hand. No glare on the pages, no sand in my bottoms, no sweat running into my eyes. As a teenager in my cool bedroom I devoured Anne Tyler, V. C. Andrews, John Irving. I scared myself sleepless reading Stephen King’s Cujo before bed. I contemplated becoming a spy reading Ken Follett’s Key to Rebecca. I learned what the world of relationships was like from the books of Norma Klein. Summers to me meant books, a glass of Diet Coke, and the soft breeze of the air conditioner.
I love summer. I love that my kids don’t have to be up at the crack of dawn (or earlier). I love relaxing and playing games with them. I love the quiet, slow pace of life. And I love that they go to sleepaway camp for four glorious weeks, leaving me nothing to do but read and write. Every second of that quiet time is bliss. Complete, total, sand-free bliss.
What are you reading and where are you going?