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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