DESTIN, Fla.—The fireworks crackled above our little beach town. The moon was out. The beaches of my youth looked the way they always do: slammed.
“I wanna go home,” I told my wife while I hauled cheap beach junk onto a crowded shore. “I don’t care about fireworks.”
She laughed. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”
My idea of fun is not communing with greased-up tourist torsos on a public beach to watch low explosive pyrotechnics.
“I brought a radio,” my wife said, sweetening the deal.
“Wow. A radio. Gee, Wally, neato.”
That remark got me a rib contusion.
The beach was covered in blankets and families. Loud children played tag in the dark. People grilled. There were the sounds of fireworks that shook your skull. My wife fired up the old transistor and immediately Alan Jackson started singing about the Chattahoochee.
Against my will I actually made some new friends among the summer people. Like the couple on the blanket next to ours who was eating popsicles and watching the sky. The guy said he was a preacher from Katy, Texas, on vacation with his wife.
“Hey man,” he said, reaching into his cooler. “You wanna popsicle?” Then he glanced in both directions and said suggestively, “They’re homemade.”
Before I could consider the deeper meaning of the clergyman’s coded words my wife answered for us both and pretty soon we were sucking frozen homemade ice pops that were made entirely from tequila.
The preacher smiled. His tongue was royal blue. “Good stuff, huh?”
After that I found myself laughing often and sometimes singing backup with our little radio. Also I had double vision. Before my wife could stop me I was already introducing myself to total strangers on nearby blankets like I was running for public office.
I met a guy cooking hotdogs on a Coleman camp stove, he was from Atlanta. He was shirtless, large, with skin the color of fresh coffee. He was listening to quiet hip hop music and said his name was DeAndre. He had a lot to say.
“Man, this has been the hardest year of my life. But it’s also the year I got woke up and found out what I’m supposed to be.
“I’m a dad. Got three girls. During the quarantines I quit my job and decided I’m gonna put the same dedication into being a dad as I was putting into being a workaholic.”
A few feet behind DeAndre were two elderly women from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, decked in pastel colors. They were eavesdropping. “God bless you, sir,” they said to DeAndre. “That’s the most beautiful thing I ever heard a dad say.”
So we gave them some Texan-pops.
The women reluctantly accepted the pops and said, “But we’re Lutherans.”
“Then lick very slowly, ladies,” DeAndre cautioned.
Next I met a small crowd of middle-aged people wearing matching yellow T-shirts. They were from somewhere in North Carolina, having a family reunion.
“This is our first outing,” said one woman, “the first time our family has gotten together since the pandemic. During COVID, my mom had hip surgery. She died from complications and the hospital didn’t allow visitors, so we never got to see her before she…”
Everyone became solemn, including me.
“She loved Destin,” one daughter went on. “We brought her ashes with us, she would’ve wanted to be here this year.”
Sometimes I forget how much I have to be grateful for.
After that I rose to go to the bathroom whereupon I lost my balance and fell into the lap of a sweet older woman from Conway, Arkansas. But I recovered nicely, gave everyone the okay sign, apologized, and the lady agreed not to lawyer up.
On the walk to the public bathrooms I realized that I’d met all kinds of people that evening. Good people who have been surviving the last 400-some days of uncertainty just like me.
And I wonder if we all realize that we’ve been living through an era our great-grandkids will read about in social studies textbooks.
When I returned to our blanket the fireworks had finished with a finale. The human being I love most in this world hugged me and we sort of leaned against each other while George Strait sang “You Look So Good In Love” over a battery-powered Sony.
“You know something?” I said to my wife. “You were right about tonight, this was actually pretty fun.”
Then we kissed an old-person kiss, which means more than the other kinds. She squeezed my chin a little too firmly and said, “Define fun.”
I had it coming.
Leigh Amiot - June 2, 2021 10:08 am
Perfect column for me today…just returned from a beach trip to St. Augustine after not seeing my granddaughters for 16 months, they traveled in with their parents from Colorado. One evening, they had on their pjs and were watching cartoons then suddenly, in a residential neighborhood, we heard fireworks. The airbnb had huge picture windows in the dining room, and we watched fireworks together, one of many magical moments on that trip. Gammy brought popsicles, but they were the healthy all fruit kind. 😆
dymenovel - June 2, 2021 10:47 am
😂 gotta love popsicles!
joan moore - June 2, 2021 11:03 am
Linda - June 2, 2021 11:27 am
I spend lots of time on those same beaches, not during the tourist season (which is quickly becoming year round). People have many more stories than pre pandemic. This has changed us all, some in good ways, others not so much. Hopefully, this has awaken people to not handing over our freedoms as easily next time. Isolation, “they” will realize, is more damaging than the “virus”. I am glad your wife got you to stay. At least she didn’t make you go to PCB….
Debbie g - June 2, 2021 11:50 am
I want to go to that beach 😂😂😂we will survive and hopefully be a better people.
Ann - June 2, 2021 11:54 am
Love this👏🏻👏🏻…thank you Jamie🥰
Brenda Petty - June 2, 2021 12:21 pm
Thanks for showing us the importance of community and being able to mingle with us! 👏
Jan - June 2, 2021 12:41 pm
Thanks for the beach trip … I needed that!
Susan Corbin - June 2, 2021 1:05 pm
What a slam bang finish to the pandemic! Quietly meeting new people is so pleasant. Here’s to new acquaintances, old people kisses, and popsicles!
Karen - June 2, 2021 2:18 pm
I’m trying to change my irritable attitude toward tourist because sometimes the tourist is me.
Christina - June 2, 2021 2:53 pm
Those homemade popsicles make everything more fun! 😝
William Dyson - June 2, 2021 3:08 pm
You are this generation’s Lewis Grizzard. When you publish your first book of essays, I’ll be in line to buyit.
MAM - June 2, 2021 6:12 pm
Crowds are not my favorite, either, but there are always good people in them, if you take time to just chat. And just chatting is wonderful now that we are allowed to do it again. I “wasted” at least an hour yesterday just chatting with three different people in person, but it was great! I needed it, and I think they did, too.
Linda Moon - June 2, 2021 8:05 pm
A long time ago my teenage brother, Wally, got attacked by sand crabs while sleeping on a Destin beach. When he came home he had nightmares reliving the attacking crabs and would yell loudly, “Get ’em off me!” Years later, the brother became a preacher in Katy, Texas …really. So, did you meet my brother and his wife at the beach? Today on a busy day you brought back memories and gratitude as I slowed down, then read “Fun on the Sand”. Gratitude is better than fun!
Linda - June 3, 2021 2:33 am
Love this one, Sean….what a year , indeed !
Hope people will not quickly forget what happened to all of us on many levels….and value the opportunities to be together again….
pdjpop - June 3, 2021 10:00 am
This time isn’t completely over but it is getting brighter. Thanks for sharing.
Sean, you married up. She’s way ahead of you. ,,,,,, don’t you hate being told something you already know?
I know you’re looking forward to the 4th of July. We are, The daughters, in-laws and grands will be here in Fairhope! I’m going to make some popsicles. Two kinds. With and without.
joemizereck - June 3, 2021 12:13 pm
Sean, the unsung hero in this story is your awesome wife. Had it not been for her nudging you to move your butt to the beach that day this story would not have been written and that would have been a tragedy. Thank God for good wives.
Robert L Chiles - June 3, 2021 1:54 pm
You married WAY up
Chasity Davis Ritter - June 3, 2021 3:33 pm
I didn’t read this yesterday. I was caught up in my own feelings. It was my dads birthday or should I say would have been. I knew if I did read your blog it might be like when you go to church and the sermon seems to be just for you. But I saved this blog for today (and I did go to church after work last night with family because like I said it was my Dads birthday and ya know what? It was fun. Saw some of our church family and my brother was there and a couple of aunts and cousins) but what’s fun about reading this now is you are in Destin. My kids and grandkids leave for there Saturday. They’re going for the first time. It would be so cool if you were still there and met them. If I’d have read this yesterday it mighta distracted me some from the day. Just like having my grandson at dads funeral distracted me from the service and made it go easier. But over all my day was good and the memories made me smile. Thinking of them maybe meeting you has made me smile too today though so it’s ok I waited to read this one. Now I gotta read today’s. Glad you and Jamie had some fun as well!!
Bob E - June 4, 2021 6:07 am
Note to self: “For fun, freeze tequila – lick very slowly”