I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. A pristine beach was actually just at the end of the block. Don't ask me to tell you much about it because it wasn't a place in which I visited or found solace or comfort. I brought my own emotional trauma to such a setting. Feeling insecure with my self image in this otherwise perfect persona of a town was just too much for me to handle at such an unclothed location. I felt the critiquing eye on my otherwise imperfect adolescent self and just never enjoyed myself. In fairness, I've never enjoyed any beach but having one in such close proximity led to my "love of the beach" demise. We all have baggage of one kind of another. My self esteem and body image is enough for several pieces of luggage. However, even the TSA limits travelers to a 50 pound limit. I'm whittling mine baggage blues away but alas, this is all for another post at another time. Back to the beach...
You'd think that after 39 years, I'd be able to figure out my issues and that I'd automatically be turned into a lover of sand and water, aka, a beach person. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. Honestly, I just don't know how to "do the beach". Forget the fact that I never felt comfortable on the beach. I mean c'mon, you can't even blouse a swimsuit to hide unwanted belly bulge, it's usually hot with no reprieve from the sun and there ends up being sand in every crack and crevice compiling your 2000 parts. Forget the fact that I've never found a hat that didn't make me look like I was sick. I can list many things about this otherwise tranquil place but none of them would make me pine to return to the sound of the crashing waves. Notoriously, I come home with more grains of sand than I ever bargained for and personally, I always find a grain in my mouth that freaks me out with the thought that I've just broken a tooth. Luckily, I've kept my teeth in tact and it's always just been a scare. Bottom line, I just can't "beach".
UNTIL, I met my friend who used to live in LA. Now, there is a place where people have honed the skill of beachING. She now lives in Chicago and has two children who are similar in age to mine. Begrudgingly, I asked her to please teach me the secrets to enjoying the beach. I explained that I must be missing something. So many families rave about careless summers frolicking at the beach with their kids in tow. The difference between these families and mine...I'm not enjoying myself.
So, we picked a day. We talked, planned and strategized. I was approaching this lesson with an open mind. We discussed locations and transportation, kids toys and beach friendly foods. It was time, I was ready. Donned in the mother of all sun hats, lathered in sunscreen, appropriately packed ... I wiped the sweat from my brow and piled the kids in the car to go and enjoy the day at the beach. I felt very optimistic.
We arrived and set up camp. Two blankets and as many umbrellas, a cooler and a beach bag. That was it. So far so good. The kids made fast friends with our blanket neighbors. They shared sand toys, snacks and giggles. The made grand plans to dig a hole in the sand until they reached water. They actually worked together and made it to their goal. The buried their feet and each others hands. The bigger kids gave jobs and helped the smaller ones participate. The Dads did swimming with the kids on their backs. The moms coordinated additional sunscreen and endless snacks. We even sat peacefully for a few minutes here and there.
It was F*U*N. I can't believe it really. I actually enjoyed the day. I found myself relaxed and comfortable. I even found myself smiling and laughing. We were close enough to enjoy the visual beauty of the cities skyline but we weren't infiltrated by the audible urban reality we call home. It almost felt like we were on vacation - cheating without the hassles of traveling. This was some magical beach. I can't wait to go back. They even had convenient and clean restrooms as well as ample parking. Green spaces and a beautiful walking path are also options for visitors. Personally, I loved that every body type was represented. This is what I call a great day, one I hope is repeated in this city girl's fleeting summer schedule.
The best outcome...I know how to "beach" now.
Enjoy another great element of the Chicago Park District when you escape to Montrose Beach yourself or with your family.