Seagulls, idleness, and the meaning of life

It’s the end of our first full week at the beach. The Husband was supposed to be joining us today for a week vacation, but he’s developed a temperature and is home sleeping it off. The kids and I have settled into a routine, we go to the beach in the morning, we have lunch, they nap, we go to the playground in the afternoon, then dinner, some tv or a show in the town square, and bedtime. It’s simple and quite sweet. I thought I’d be ready to strangle them by now, but I’m not, I’m actually getting used to spending all this time with them.

Of course all this leisure time has its consequences, mostly in that I have lots of time to think and observe the world around me and be amazed by all the things I normally don’t notice. For example, I always knew, but had never really realized how terrified of the weather Italians are. For example, kids here always wear undershirts, all year, so they “don’t get a chill”, despite widespread modern conveniences like, for example, indoor heating. Italians bundle up, they’re always wearing a couple more layers of clothing than I or my children are, in fact, my mother in law constantly tells me I’m irresponsible as she follows me around with a hat. I thought this behavior was mostly autumn, winter, and spring related, in reality it’s just ingrained in the culture. As I sit on the beach surrounded by children with their mothers, fathers, or grandparents all I hear around me are repeated admonishments not to go in the water, it’s too cold, get out of the water and warm up in the sun, stay out of the sun, it’s too hot, not to roll around in the sand, it’s too abrasive, not to get their hair wet (it’s too wet?), it’s annoying, and headache inducing.

Granted, the weather this year has not been fab. It’s colder than normal for the end of June, and the rain and chilly wind are plentiful, but we’re not in Siberia nor are we swimming in the English Channel (the British do this, and they seem to be in excellent health). I spend my days wishing I could just tell everyone around me to chill out a minute, relax, and enjoy the fact that it’s summer, and hey, we’re at the beach. A few days ago it was cloudy, this town is tiny and I didn’t really know what to do, so we went to the beach anyway thinking that if it was too cold to go swimming we could at least built a sandcastle. The beach was pretty empty. After a while it started raining, the beach emptied completely. I was under the relative dryness of the beach umbrella and my kids stripped into just their suits and started running like two crazies on the beach and in the surf. They reminded me of two dogs chasing each other on the sand running in the water, running away from the waves faces held high and tongues out to catch the rain. Of course they were frozen by the time an hour had past, the rain intensified, and they calmed down enough to actually leave, but they had probably never had so much fun at the beach. I mean, seriously, when else would I just let them run around half naked in the rain? We were the only ones on the entire beach, I’m sure grandmothers were looking out their windows at us and tsk, tsking at my irresponsibility.

Another thing I’ve just recently realized, is how completely and utterly weird being at the beach actually is. Think about it, everyone around you is someone you could run into on the street, in the grocery store, your doctor, your dentist, the delivery guy, the electrician, the teacher, the business man, people you see, you say good morning to in line for coffee, people we talk to, cross, run into, all day, every day, of our daily lives, but they are all, for all intents and purposes, naked.

Seriously, is it not weird?

You have a conversation with the mom standing watch next to you, but she’s in a bikini, which is not all that different from a bra and panties. And so are you. All year we hide our imperfections, camouflage our bellies, or our saddle bags, or our droopy behinds, or our flabby arms…. And then summer rolls around and we’re all there walking around, chasing our kids, playing catch on the beach, essentially naked. How is this normal? I ran into one of the check out girls at the grocery store the other day, she was laying there talking to a friend, she’s skinny but has really bad cellulite on her thighs, her stomach isn’t as flat as it seems in her clothes and I’m pretty sure she’s had a boob job. I’m not judging her, she’s flawed like all the rest of us, but don’t you think, suddenly, I have way too much information on the check out girl I see several times a week at the grocery store?

This is what being at the beach does to me, makes me think strange things, makes me notice stuff that I’m usually too busy and self involved to notice, completely useless things. For example, I’ve also noticed how insanely loud seagulls are. Have you ever stopped to think about it? Seagulls. They’re always cawing at each other (do seagulls caw, or is that just crows?). And there are so many of them, like cuter, whiter, sea vultures, just flying in circles overhead, cawing, and pooping on bewildered passers by, landing on light posts and looking down on us all tilted head and evil eyed. I’m not sure I’m a big fan of seagulls, though they’ve never done anything to me directly.  Although, quite possibly, all this attention to seagulls and their behavioral patterns is a clear indication that I’ve got way too much time on my hands.

So summer is officially here, it’s started, whether the weather agrees with me or not, so for now, for the next few weeks, I’ll be pondering completely useless things, as I stroll half naked on the beach, and who knows maybe I’ll alight on some hidden truth on life, or the universe, or human behavior, something meaningful to take back with me or at the very least to keep me occupied in this season of idleness.

One thought on “Seagulls, idleness, and the meaning of life

  1. This made me smile – don’t forget that while being wrapped up, sweating must be avoided at all costs as it will ‘make you ill’ . The old ‘don’t run Marco, you’ll sweat’ has been heard from many a classmates mamma or nonna – maybe if they took off his hat, scarf and jacket in 20+ temperatures?

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