Those carefree halcyon days ...

Bittersweet Beach Memories

Kathleen D'Innocenzo        

May 30, 2013

The drive from Massachusetts to Maine was a boring, uncomfortable journey with the blazing sun beating on our 1965 wooden-sided station wagon.  One would think with the length of such a vehicle, ample air would travel swiftly through all four extra-large windows.  However, that wasn't the case.  The windows didn't do an adequate job, and having my adorable hyper-active, slick black Scottish terrier, McTavish panting heavily on my lap only added to the prickly sticky heat.

McTavish was just eight weeks old when my father bought him.  I was an infant at the time.  McTavish quickly became a much-loved member of our family.  His demeanor was of a kind, patient and devoted companion.  He tolerated being dressed in clothes, being placed in a doll carriage from time to time, never once trying to bite me.  We grew up together.

Now I was fourteen.  We were taking a family vacation to Alfred, Maine.  It was an unusually hot and dry summer, but knowing I would soon be swimming and wave crashing in the cold Atlantic Ocean made the trip a little easier.

After enduring the miserable car ride, we arrived at our destination.  Our A-frame cabin featured a majestic view of the rocks, surf and ocean.  As soon as we arrived, my brothers and I bolted from the car as if it were on fire.

After unpacking the vintage luggage with its dated tapestry fabric, I finally reached the refreshingly cold, salty water.  It was much colder than I had anticipated, or even remembered for that matter.  Despite the frigid temperature and the sharpness of the shock the cold gave my body, I dove in head first.  It didn't take long for my body to adapt to the temperature, and after that ride I was in no hurry to get out and head for the cabin as I have done so many times before.  Perhaps this was because the ride here was particularly miserable and exhausting.

Salt water stings the eyes, but the discomfort is usually for just a few moments.  This was the case for me.  After the burning sensation subsided, I was able to open my eyes.  The first thing I saw was McTavish.  His tight, curly and salt-covered coat was drenched.  Normally McTavish did not like to get wet, but today he didn't seem to care at all.  He was probably just as hot as the rest of us.  McTavish was having a ball trying to bite at the waves.

Years passed.  McTavish grew old and tired.  His once swift-moving legs that got him into mischief and an occasional tangle with a skunk were now failing to carry him home before dinner.  Sometimes while waiting for him, I would look out the double paned huge bay window in our front living room hoping I would see him running up Winter Street.  Often I would see him struggling up the hill with his tongue hanging out, pausing every so often to rest before pressing on.  We all knew he was getting old and worn out.

My father had visited with many of the neighbors, asking that they keep an eye out for McTavish while driving in the neighborhood.  One evening just as we were sitting down to dinner, we were interrupted by a knock on the front door.  It was our neighbor, Mr. Pizzicone.  He came to tell us he had hit our dog and that McTavish was dead.  My heart broke.  I cried for what seemed like an entire year.

I still love going to the beach, and whenever I am ocean side, I can't help but remember those carefree halcyon days and our family vacations.  And each time I visit the beach I remember that day in Alfred with my former pal, McTavish.  I loved that little pain-in-the-butt dog and I miss him to this day.


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