Credit: George Danby

The other day as I was sitting in my old dilapidated beach chair, knee deep in the ocean, when I was allowed to watch the baptism of a new beach kid. The ceremony begins with the arrival of a new family. They are loaded with every type of umbrella, stroller, towels, coolers and, of course, beach chairs. It is obvious the family is most excited about introducing their newest to the ocean. The kid, maybe 1 year old, doesn’t have a clue what is about to happen.

After establishing their tight little section of territory, the father brings the newest member of his family down to the sea. As he is walking carrying his baby it looks as though he is explaining where they are going. The child has a smile on their face because he or she is secure in the knowledge that something new is about to happen.

As soon as the father reaches the water, he stops and decides to bounce his child up and down attempting to foreshadow the wonderful experience his offspring is about to have. Every few feet he stops and begins to have a conversation.

Back at the shore the rest of the family watch in deep apprehension. I can almost read their thoughts wondering if their son, daughter, sister or brother will love or hate the salt water. The mother has the most serious expression on her face, perhaps because this could be the first time she is not at the center of a new experience her baby is about to have. The deeper the father walks into the water, the quieter the older children become.

Then the moment of truth arrives. The father, who is now waist-deep in the ocean and is bouncing up and down in order to reduce any possibility of splash, stops talking. For the next few seconds he does his best to reassure his child that the following few seconds will become a highlight in his or her life.

In one quick movement, the father bends his knees and drops his child down into the water. For the next few bits of time the child has the expression of a deer in headlights. For the next few moments the child has to make a decision as to whether or not to become a beach kid.

If a smile appears, then it is the beginning of a long love affair with the beach. If a laugh is heard, then sand will be eaten, crabs will be discovered and sandcastles will be constructed with deep moats to stop the flow of the tides.

If the arms and hands are waved in excitement, then friends will be found while playing on the beach. Time in the sun will be the best time of all.

But, if the shock of the cold water ever scares the child in the arms of his or her father, then the ocean may be something that will never be loved and explored. If the child begins to cry, then time spent on the beach may not be pleasant.

On this particular occasion, the child obviously loved where he was. Or at least I think it was a he. His smile ran from one ear.

Back on the shore, the rest of the family jumps up and down with joy. The brothers and sisters now know that they have a new playmate on the beach. They know that a new ally has arrived to pester their parents to come out to the beach as many times as possible.

The father then walks his child back to the beach to join his family. Everyone is excited. The child is laughing almost hysterically as the father hands over the newest of beach kids to the mother. For the past 50 years of observing this reality, I know that as soon as the child goes into the mother’s arms, he or she hugs her thanking her for the life she gave. The mother now becomes the center again.

There are many reasons why people yearn to live by the ocean. I love living here because I can observe little moments like this.

Jim Fabiano is a retired teacher and writer who lives in York.