This weekend’s swimming lesson went much better from Sonny’s perspective: The woman with the keys never showed up, so we never got anywhere near the pool.
The wife had taken Peanut on a bike-riding playdate — we’re trying to ease her into allowing us to take off the training wheels. So it was Sonny and me and a gorgeous day. When Sonny said he wanted to go to the beach, I did not hesitate. He grabbed his industrial-size digger, I grabbed my book, and off we went. No towels, no sunblock, no blanket. Just two men on an impulse. All we needed was a keg of beer, but neither of us drink, so that would have been odd.
The tide was out, which is a great time to be at the beach. The water has receded practically to Asia — you can walk forever out into where the water used to be, looking at very confused hermit crabs and about one quazillion snails. Sonny asked for permission to run out there even though he was wearing sneakers. I said sure! So you get muddy! You’re a little boy! Go get filthy for a change!
Miles away, my wife looked up sharply, somehow sensing that her husband was doing something boneheaded.
It was fine, really. Sonny ran all the way out to the tideline and threw rocks. I could hear him laughing and howling even though he was a football field’s distance away from me. I read my book and enjoyed the breezes and the sunshine. All was right with the world.
When I next looked up, Sonny was face down in the mud, trying to pull himself back to a standing position. He was trying to get back to me, but had walked through a particularly muddy piece of beachfront property. The mud had eaten his sneakers and was starting on his ankles. He was rooted to the spot. Every time he tried to lift his leg, he fell again.
This was one of those moments when a father learns just how fast he can run.
“I’m stuck,” Sonny told me when I got there. He wasn’t crying, but he was a long way from happy.
I reached for him with two hands and yanked him out of the goo. “My shoe came off!” he said. Yes, it certainly did. Sonny stood there covered in mud, sopping wet, with one shoe remaining and his other foot clad in a sock so wet it had turned transparent. I stretched out and grabbed back his other shoe — it came loose from the ground with a sound like SHPLORK. (No, it didn’t. But it should have.)
Now I had to get Sonny back to the car. He was not a happy beachcomber. “I fell! I’m dirty!” he kept saying. Somehow I succeeded in keeping the situation light enough that he didn’t get too despondent. I wanted him to see that this was all very silly. Which it was. Nobody likes being wet and muddy, though, so for now he was pretty unhappy. By the time we got home, though, he was more or less back to his old self. He started walking up the driveway, and he looked at his wet feet and the tracks he was leaving behind. “Footprints!” he yelled, and laughed.
He undressed on the enclosed porch, and I took his sneakers and washed them out with a hose. They should be dry again by the year 2015. We both took showers, I got Sonny into his pajamas, and we spent the rest of the day indoors. Some days are too nice to spoil by actually going outside.