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P is for Sunday Picnics at the Beach


Going to the beach was always an all-of-a-sudden decision that the Mama and the Daddy made at some point between the moment they woke up and finished breakfast on a Sunday morning. Then, they would wake up the Older Brother and me.

The Mama and Daddy got everything together. The Mama cooked a pot of rice and gathered plates, napkins, utensils, cups, cutting board, knives, blankets, towels, and so forth. The Daddy collected firewood (and later charcoal), grills, and buckets. The older I got, the more tasks I did, from gathering my own change of clothes to getting the picnic basket together and helping haul everything out to the car.

We usually made two stops before we got to our favorite picnic spot on the rocky shoreline in Monterey. The first was at a mom-and-pop store on the way out of town to buy the Daddy's bottle of whiskey, Seven-Up, soda, and hot dogs. The second was at the Fisherman's Wharf where the parents bought American mackerel, squid, and other fish for lunch.


The Daddy always drove the long scenic route along the coast to our picnic spot, which was over a short dune and down a slope full of boulders and rocks. It was tough going for a kid, but I managed to make it down by myself. The Daddy and the Older Brother were whirlwinds as they took several trips back and forth to the car.

Once the blanket was laid out, everyone, but the Daddy, changed into shorts. The Mama picked up a bucket and headed for the rocks to pick seaweed. At that time, people could gather seaweed freely for food. The water was still pristine, so we thought. The Older Brother went in another direction on his own adventure. The Daddy made a makeshift barbecue pit on the rocks, and once the fire was going, he mixed a drink of whiskey and Seven-Up. The Daddy was very happy to grill the fish and sip his drink, while the rest of was did our thing.


I stayed within sight of the Daddy, going farther and farther away as I grew older, climbing the rocks and splashing in the tide pools. Sometimes, I had my own bucket to gather snails, which we ate for supper when we got home. I always kept an eye out for the waves. The Mama told me to make a sign of the cross in the sand as a worrisome wave approached and that would keep me safe. It worked every time.

The Daddy called us in when the fish was cooked. The Mama took a long time coming back because she kept stopping to pick up more seaweed. But, finally she was back with a bucket full of red, pink, green, brown, and black seaweed. The Older Brother appeared from who knows where, a few times with an abalone or two.

Our lunch was a feast. Grilled fish. Hot dogs. Rice, Tomatoes and onions. And, whatever else the Mama packed in the basket. Yummm. The Mama often said at our picnics that eating at the beach made the food taste better.

After we ate, the Daddy washed the grills, then took a nap. The Mama fussed about, putting everything back in order, after which she sat back and enjoyed the moment, or went out for more seaweed. The Older Brother and I explored.  Sometimes I followed him, but could never keep up. Then before I knew it, it was time to change into our dry clothes and haul everything back up the hill to the car.


Last year, the Husband and I went by our family's favorite picnic spot. The sand dunes and rocky slope are no more. Rocks now litter the spot where we used to have our picnics. Doesn't matter, I can still see us there.

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Comments

  1. I'm curious about what your mom did with the seaweed. She would have enjoyed picking it here. Beach bbqs are a big deal in Hawaii. That's what a lot of people do on holidays.
    Maui Jungalow

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    1. I recall eating seaweed salad with fresh tomatoes and green onions as well seaweed in soup. The Mama probably dried a lot for us to eat later. I don't recall her freezing the seaweed until I was an adult.

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  2. A lovely post about childhood. Time, the elements, and even people, can change the landscape of our favourite places over the years but it can never erase the memories - they will last a lifetime.

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    1. Thank you. My lifetime, that's for sure, and for which I'm very grateful.

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  3. Memories always last and this sounds so wonderful. I take it they were the right snails to eat:) How did you mom cook up the seaweed? Great pictures also-you were a cute kid:)

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    1. I remember the snails as being delicious. We used the pointy ends of safety pins to pull out the meat. That was what made eating snails fun. The Mama made a salad out of the seaweed with tomatoes. She just washed the seaweed very carefully to make sure all the grit was out. She just knew which seaweed was the best to eat. None was ever tough.

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  4. I live a hundred miles from the ocean, but never seem to go any more. I am going to try and go to the beach this summer.

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    1. It's difficult without a car. More than likely you'll find the perfect combination of public transportation to get there.

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  5. Picnics beside the seaside - how wonderful!

    I didn't get to see the sea until I was 10/11-ish ... I was so surprised there was so much water, it just went on for ever.

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    1. I felt the same way when I saw Lake Michigan when I was 20. I had no idea I would not be able to see to the other shore.

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  6. Susie,

    I enjoyed your beach memories very much. The Mama is right: the beach does make food taste better.

    When I was a child, we often spent Sundays at the beach too. I returned to a favourite childhood beach as an adult and wouldn't have recognised it if it hadn't been for the sign telling us where we were. The beach had been discovered and developed, and there were tourists and shops everywhere. I like to remember those happy beach days when we used to spend hours building armchairs or cars in the sand, or collecting exotic looking shells in our buckets, with hardly a person in sight. It's wonderful how places live on in our memories, isn't it?

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    1. Sometimes I think I'm stuck in time that I recall some of these earlier days of my life so well. Then I ask myself: How is that a bad thing?

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  7. my P was a picnic too and I wondered if people still do picnic, love the pictures, filled with tender love and warm memories

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    1. I hope people will continue to picnic forever and ever. Humanity will have lost so much if we don't sprawl on the ground--or on a table--outdoors and break bread with people we like and love.

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  8. Fun memories. What a shame the place is no longer as nice as what you remember!

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    1. That particular spot is demolished, but the rest of the beach has been greatly improved. I should've noted that the once-upon-a-time sand hills were flattened and covered with native plants and a wooden pathway.

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Thanks for the good cheer. :-)

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