On My Grandmother and the Beach

My grandmother has a strange fixation on the beach.

Today is gorgeous in Charm City. Generally clear, save for large puffy clouds. It was on the chilly side in the morning — mid-forties — but by lunchtime the temperature had climbed into the high-fifties, low-sixties, and there was a brisk wind behind it.

In short, a day for kiteflying. Not a day for the beach.

Consider, then, my conversation with my grandmother over morning coffee:

Grandmother: It’s so pretty today. Everyone’s going to be going to the beach.

Me: Today? No one’s going to the beach today.

Grandmother: They will. They always do. The beaches will be packed.

Me: It’s the middle of the week. It’s April. The ocean is cold. Children are in school. Adults are working. No one’s going to the beach today.

Grandmother: They don’t have to go in the ocean.

Me: Kids aren’t skipping school to go to the beach. Adults aren’t playing hooky from work. People aren’t going to the beach today.

Grandmother: Yes, they will. Yes, they will.

Me: Right. People are going to skip school and work on a random day in mid-April to drive hours to get to the beach to look at water that’s far too cold to go into.

Grandmother: They will.

I could only shake my head.

Baltimore, despite being on the Chesapeake Bay, isn’t anywhere near a beach. Our neighbors, despite whatever my grandmother may think, aren’t skipping work today for a beach outing. Kids aren’t skipping school to go for an ocean swim.

This is typical.

Any morning where the sun is out and the skies are suitably blue, my grandmother is insistent about how the whole of the area will be taking off for a day at the beach. There can be snow on the ground, and my grandmother will talk about the neighbors going on beach outings.

Her interest in the beach is mystifying to me. My grandfather’s relatives typically go to the beach every year, yet I cannot think of any time where my grandmother went on any sort of beach outing.

She has memories of beach outings all the same, and she will tell anecdotes about weeks we spent at the beach when I was young. Or how she goes to the beach on a regular basis.

One particularly vivid story she told was about how she threw me into the ocean when I was three or four off the end of a pier. I can tell you that no such dunking in the ocean off the end of pier was experienced by me in my childhood.

She seems to think that we live near the ocean.

She also thinks that my siblings live near the ocean.

My parents took my grandmother to visit my brother and sister for Easter. “They live at the ocean, don’t they?” she said to me.

I shook my head. “No, they live near the mountains,” I replied sadly.

“Oh, that’s right,” she said. “I forgot that you can see the mountains from the beach.”

She was referring to Virginia Beach, where my sister went to school. You can’t see the mountains from Virginia Beach; they’re a hard four hour drive west. (It’s something Down Periscope gets wrong, given that it was filmed around San Diego; the Norfolk Navy Yard isn’t anywhere near mountains.)

At dinner it’s likely that she’ll notice cars on the road, heading west, and she’ll wonder aloud if it’s people returning from the day at the beach.

Or, she may notice there are no cars heading west, and she’ll wonder if people are staying overnight at the beach.

That people aren’t descending on the beach as she believes they are simply doesn’t register.

I wonder what the fascination is with her.

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