Beach Lesson #1: The Power of Jean Shorts, Sand Grenades, & Now

Cullen Murray Kemp



I’ve always admired the joy that folks get from going to the beach. It’s as though the simple crash of waves against sand can somehow alleviate us of all our complicated life problems—for a few moments, at the very least. And there are all sorts of beach goers: the beach bum, the beach stroller, the beach surfer, the beach reader, and perhaps my favorite, the beach newbie.


You can always detect newbies because as soon as their feet touch the sand, they transform. The outside world suddenly becomes non-existent and irrelevant as they run reckless toward the water—tennis shoes on—and dive head first into the shallow wave break. They frolic in the white foam and dry heave from the quart of ocean they always inhale. Yet, these newbies shine.


This past weekend I was sitting on Folly Beach when I witnessed the gloriousness of an entire family of beach newbies. Amidst a daydream of whether or not I should still technically consider myself a writer, a mother and her three children playing in the breaking waves got my attention. Through the Lil Wayne lyrics that rang in my headphones, I heard yelps and squawks from the family: “Ooohhhh baby look at this water. It’s everywhere!” The mother exclaimed to her kids.


The older boy, who was wearing a white tank top, jean shorts (which were about three sizes too large), and white tube socks danced in the shallow water. He had no idea that you’re not supposed to wear socks in the ocean (or jeans or a shirt for that matter). Yet, he couldn't have cared less.


The younger two kids were throwing hunks of wet sand at each other in a game they called “sand grenades.” Amid rapid fire between the children, a sand-bomb went awry and clocked the mother in the side of the head. An oh shit look fell over the boy’s face.


“Charlie!” shrieked the mother as she began to chase Chuck into the deeper water.


Side note: To put it nicely, mom was not exactly on Jared’s Subway diet, so you can picture the scene I’m looking at right now.


Chasing Charlie into the water, mom misjudged the ocean’s depth and fell face-first into the ocean. Now it wasn’t a bad fall, per se, but it lacked the grace of a figure skater’s misstep. The thin tank top that held the mom’s chest in place didn’t stand a chance against the crash of the water. Pop! Bare breasts were out. I looked around hoping I wasn’t the only one who was witnessing this, but per usual, everyone seemed to be enthralled with his or her own beach experiences. I had exclusive rights to this magnificent show.


It was about the time that the breasts were tucked away, back into the safety of her bra, that I realized how inconsequential the slight nudity was. The mom certainly didn’t care, as she had finally caught up with Charlie and lovingly wrestled with her son, while her other two children joined in to play “attack mom.”


As the scene settled down a bit, I started to notice all the other beach dwellers. Some read books, some rubbed on sun-soaking oils, some played bocce ball, but all were genuinely happy.


That’s what the beach does, makes us forget our problems and focus on the goodness of the present.


In the finals words of this blog, my conclusion about being a writer has become clearer. A writer doesn’t have to have a coveted column, or a New York Times bestseller, rather for me, being able to move my readers from their couch at home to this hilarious and telling scene at the beach will suffice.