Reid State Park, Wiscasset, Maine
When our parents made plans to take my sister Susan and I to the shore we would quickly collect our baskets, tin pails andshovels, net bags and shoe boxes, for Dad to pack in the car’s overburdened trunk. In order to make our belongings compact and more “stow-able”, we would offer to pack them ourselves. We were lucky that everything fit inside the trunk because nothing frustrated Dad more than packing on a hot humid day.
After surviving the three bridges,with the suspension bridge being the worse (it had a scary grid road surface, where if you looked down you could see the water and rocks far below), Dad found a spot in the already packed dusty lot. The parking attendant told Dad that we were car number 168 and reminded us that the park would close at sunset. Mom and Dad found a picnic table in the shade while Susan and I helped unpack our gear, folding chairs, and picnic basket from the trunk “Wait! Our pails,” we cried before Dad closed the trunk.
Armed with our pails and net bags Susan and I trooped out to the tide pools exposed by low tide. Oh, how fortunate we were to live near the ocean! We repeated our mother’s admonishments back to her: stay away from the rock edges, away from the clutches of the waves. We promised to be watchful, to look out for each other, we promised to do whatever Mom asked so that we could break away and feel the salt air on our cheeks and the hot sun toast our shoulders. We wanted to be free! We were experienced rock climbers by the ages of five and seven; we were as sure-footed as mountain goats. We would hop and leap from fissure to fissure, navigate the gaps and ravines between weathered granite boulders older that God without fear. We tested for wobbly stones and wet seaweed. We respected the rocks completely and realized they offered protection just as much as danger.
Aside from the adrenalin pumping teasing of the waves, our sole reason for packing so many containers was to find living starfish and crabs. The more we could find the better since we also knew that large numbers would ensure that some would live through the trip home and several days into the week. What we never mastered was recreating the saltwater environment to keep the sea-life living forever. We didn’t understand the difference between fresh and salt water when we were very young and killed our treasures instantly as we rinsed the sand off our feet, shells and pail contents. Once we grasped the water difference we brought plastic jugs to collect the water only to find that it also required oxygen to sustain life.
Since we weren’t allowed to have a large tank beyond a globe bowl that held our annual goldfish I decided that finding dead starfish would be best because then we could display the dried specimens on the our bedroom windowsills. Susan liked my idea because she especially enjoyed participating in show and tell at school. We ranged out to locate the best pools hoping to see trapped fish and creatures beyond our imaginations. We would poke at things with sticks and shovels and if anything moved in unexpected ways we would jump back scared, thrilled, surprised, and gasp little “Ohs”.
It was hard business deciding what to bring home, we had to economize knowing Dad would be stingy with trunk space, although not everything packed in the morning would be returning with us – our ability to take our treasures home depending on Dad’s patience. Once everything and everyone was in the car tradition called for ice cream.
May 16, 2009
Revised June 9, 2010 KBP