By Mike Lauterborn
(Appeared as a column in Oct 15 Fairfield-Citizen News)
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
It was midday on a mid-September Sunday and the forecast called for clear skies and temps in the low 70s. It seemed ideal to squeeze in a beach visit, perhaps the last of the season.
Unlike the busy mid-summer months, the parking lots at Penfield Beach were virtually empty and the gatehouses, normally manned by police or Parks & Rec employees, were closed.
Likewise, the beach itself was sparsely dotted with sun worshippers, and lifeguard chairs were unoccupied. In fact, the seagulls here, which stood like sentries, outnumbered people.
The tide was receding as I plopped down a beach chair along a line of shells at the high water mark. Beyond, the sun shimmered on the Sound, which was quite calm, and several sailboats navigated the horizon, maneuvering in a breeze. Fishing craft were anchored out there as well, in a bid to catch bluefish, bottom-dwelling blackfish and striped bass.
A little girl stooped and plucked shells to place in a yellow bucket. A fit-looking woman, out walking for exercise, strolled past her. A couple struggled to tack down to a picnic table a plastic tablecloth, perchance to enjoy lunch. A graying woman, reclined in a folding chair, hummed along to a tune being fed through earbuds.
“Daddy’s going in the water, c’mon in,” a father, pacing into the shallow water, beckoned to his young son. The boy stepped in to his ankles, registered shock, did a u-turn and retreated up the sand to his mother. Another young lad coordinated the flight of a colorful red and yellow kite while his mom snapped a photograph.
Two women seated side by side caught up on reading -- one with a magazine, the other with a novel. Ice coffees were wedged into the sand next to them.
A girl in her teens paced along with a camera, pausing periodically to snap notable beach elements. An au pair from Hamburg, Germany, she remarked that it was a hobby and then wandered to where another dad-and-son duo stood on a sandbar with surf casters.
“I had no idea it was going to be this nice. I would have brought a bathing suit,” a man said, leading a shaggy black dog into the shallows. He was skewered by darting stares from beachgoers aware that dogs are not permitted here until later in the season.
A young couple spread out a sheet in the sand near him. She sported a football jersey, a reminder we are in the early stages of the season and numerous games were on today’s docket. Near them, a mom leafed through a bulky Sunday paper. Behind her chair, her tow-headed son, sheltered by a towel draped across to another chair, dug a pit in the sand.
Another couple strolled by – her t-shirt said DON’T BUG ME, in contrast to her jovial mood and lilting laugh. Running by them, a boy attempted to get airborne a rather large multi-colored kite, with numerous tails. It was stubborn and dipped and threatened to dovetail into the sand. He fought back, trimming the line, staying with it. On a nearby bench, lovers nuzzled each other, intertwined in such a way that it was hard to tell whose legs and arms belonged to whom.
This was beach life -- as good as it gets in these parts -- and soon would give way to the arriving fall.