I'm at the beach today (again) and it's Labor Day crowded. I'm gazing at the waves when a family bustles by, spraying sand. They settle in front of me and unpack. The couple is white and 40-something. There are two young blond girls, a blond teenaged boy and two black boys, one toddler and one perhaps five or six. These two boys stand back while the girls raid the sand toys, grabbing pales and shovels. The teen tucks a boogie board under his arm and jogs to the sea.
After shouting warnings not to drift to the teen, the Dad kneels beside the older boy, puts his hand on his head and whispers something in his ear. The boy nods his head, takes his hand and the two start toward the water. The toddler screams and wails something incomprehensible. The older boy goes to him and tries to pull him toward the water, too. He cries louder and digs his heels into the sand. The Mother kneels down beside the two and takes both their hands in hers:
Mom: He's afraid, honey. He's just afraid. You go ahead and then you come right back and you let him touch you. Let him touch your wet hands and see that you're okay.
The older boy doesn't say a word. He pats the younger one on his chest and goes off with the father. Sure enough, he comes running back, breathless, laughing, dripping arms outstretched to his brother. All is calm once more. Still, the toddler stays on the sand with the mother.
Hours later, I'm packing up to go. I take in one more look at the sea, now choppy with frothy waves. I notice that this family sits all together on the sand now. The parents and older children encircle the two young black boys; the younger sits in the older's lap. The others have joined hands around them and sit with bowed heads. I hear murmuring, but I cannot understand. Even if I'd heard, I wouldn't post it.