Reading: Nothing, at the moment. I finished Harry Potter 5 at the beach. I agree with all those who are saying that it is the best one yet.

Watching: Days of our Lives. Good lord, but it fits in with an entry about when I was 14. There's Abe, there's Victor, there's Tony, there's Jack and Jennifer's loft, although some other kids live there now. Not much has changed in Salem, apparently.

I have been thinking a lot about adulthood lately.

And, you know, how much it sucks.

Granted, childhood can be pretty sucky too, and I know that for some, childhood is just downright horrible. But I was lucky.

I was sitting on the beach one day last week, splitting my time between reading and people-watching. I went out into the ocean and paddled around, watching a girl who looked about fourteen and her father play catch with some new-fangled ball that soaks up water but doesn't sink, and I suddenly yearned to be fourteen again myself.

Seventeen years ago that day, I imagine, I was doing the same thing as that girl, except not with the water ball thing, as we didn't have those. Instead, I would be playing Kadima with my father, this stupid paddleboard game where you spend approximately 5% of your time hitting the ball and 95% of your time chasing it around the beach. I would be sitting in the sun without any sunscreen whatsoever because I would already have been as brown as a nut, this being the mid-1980's when we could give a damn about skin cancer. I'd be walking the shoreline with my mother, looking for shells that we'd glue to barrettes and hair combs.

I would be eating sandy baloney sandwiches and packages of cheese and peanut butter crackers. I would be playing Yahtzee or Spit with my cousins, trying to keep the cards from blowing away. We'd be singing along with our tapes of Like a Virgin and Seven and the Ragged Tiger and The Breakfast Club soundtrack. I'd be building sand castles, not kiddy drippy things but complex ones that took knives and brushes, and more talent than I actually had.

I would sit in a tide pool, reading one of the dozens of paperback books my mother and I would get from the used bookstore before we left Kansas City each summer, Dean Koontz and Agatha Christie and Victoria Holt. I'd be in the ocean, searching for sand dollars with my feet, which we would soak in bleach, then spend rainy days painting them. I'd be diving through waves, or riding them in, or running in screaming from jellyfish stings, and go home to coat my legs in meat tenderizer.

I'd ride my bike up to the General Store to buy a blue raspberry icee and play the one video game they had, something where you were a chef and had to run around building hamburgers. I'd save up my allowance to go to the drugstore and buy blush and lip gloss, new shades that complemented my tanned skin. I'd put on my Chris Evert tennis outfit and go to the club for classes, hoping against hope that Brad the Tennis Instructor God would be showing us how to serve that day, because he'd do it by standing behind us and guiding our arms through the motion. Sigh.

I'd do gymnastic routines in the pool, handstands and backflips and other things I could never actually do on dry land. I'd be having mini-IM swimming competitions with my friends, or playing water badminton. I'd time my lunches to watch Days of our Lives, hoping my grandmother wasn't around to lecture me about rotting my brain, but forgiving her if she said she was going to make chili for everyone that night.

I'd wake up in a panic from the burglar alarm, which someone always managed to set off at least once every summer. Or, my mother would come wake me up before dawn and the two of us would take bagels and juice and go up to the beach to watch the sunrise, sharing some mother-daughter quiet time in the midst of the cacophony of relatives.

I would be going out to the pool at midnight, even though the water was always freezing, because a midnight swim sounded so sophisticated. I'd stay up until all hours with my cousins, playing Monopoly and waiting for my 18-year-old brother to come home, to see if he'd bring his friend, a townie I had a huge crush on. Or I'd sneak up the walk to sit on the beach, staring at the stars and listening to the waves and feeling both scared and thrilled, alone in the vast darkness.

In short, the biggest concern I had was which bathing suit I was going to wear the next day and which tapes I was going to take to the beach and whether my cousin and I would be able to spike our Kool-Aid with wine coolers when no one was looking.

Life was so utterly simple back then.

And sometimes it astonishes me that I couldn't wait to grow up.

...lay down with us

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