Pete and his signature smirk
Nettie, Pete's mom, would make gallons of family Iced Tea (a big secret recipe punishable by never getting another glass), pot loads of meatballs and sauce, her famous 'crusher' sandwiches, and a load of other goodies. Pete's sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, their kids would all meet at Nettie's house, getting everyone into their bathing suits and waiting for Pete Sr. to get home from work.
We'd almost never leave the house before 3:00pm to get to the beach. Most usually, it was closer to 4:00pm. Nettie would say that we couldn't go anywhere until the men got home from work, but even on weekends, we never got to the beach any earlier. Nettie never liked to sit in the sun. She usually had an umbrella with her and preferred to swim when the sun wasn't directly on her. So, when ever other family was packing up to go home from the beach. We were just arriving ... all 30 of us. Most of us had no suntans ... we were like beach vampires ... light skinned water loving monsters.
We'd take up a huge section of the beach and all the kids, Pete Sr and Peter would go into the water. Peter's father was a lifeguard so he would swim out far, past the rocks and just tread water for a long time. Peter, Nancy, Michelle, and I would swim out after him. It was especially thrilling when the beach lifeguards went home and Pete Sr. and Peter would allow me to stay out really far with them. I loved not being able to feel the ground beneath my feet. Peter would tease me that sharks were going to bite my toes, but he promised he wouldn't let them get more than one toe, maybe only the pinky toe, because no one really needed pinky toes.
Then when I couldn't stand the thought of losing toes to sharks, Peter would swim back in with me so I wouldn't be frightened. Then he'd swim back out to his father. We'd stay at the beach late, till the sun was going down (or a lightening storm was brewing). We'd eat warm meatball sandwiches (sometimes crunchy with sand in it - yuk), oatmeal cookies and drink ice cold tea sitting on our blankets. We were usually the only people on the beach. I loved those days !
I still get down to the beach late afternoons at least a couple of times a season to spend an evening eating dinner and watching the seagulls on the beaches of Coney Island (West 27 Street). As my husband and I are walking onto the beach, droves of sun worshippers are coming off. The sun is less harsh, the water a little cooler, it's so peaceful and it brings me back to simplier days when all I cared about was how long we could stay in the water and if my aunts would let me help make a sandcastle with them.
By the way, when Nettie died in her 80s, she didn't have one single wrinkle. Good genetics or never a sun-tanned face? Who knows, but everyone always thought she had a face lift, even her doctors, and she never did.