American Pie – Scared To Get Wet

These UC stories are fast piling up,
Let’s take a breather, back to stories from when I was young,
Here we go, a memory sparked by this tune by Don McLean,
One of my earliest memories of going to the beach.

 One of the most vivid road trips that I can recall from my childhood was one particular trip to the beach, where I would learn that I had a rather embarrassing fear of the water (which would quickly be overcome a few years later) and that sunburn truly is a nasty and vindictive bully. I was about five or six years old at the time and whenever I hear the song that this blog was named after on the radio, I can’t help but smile and laugh at memories from that particular trip.

It was on a Saturday during the summer time and my parents took my sister and I to the beach, accompanied by some of my mother’s work buddies and their families. It was a rather long trip, coming from the outskirts of Quezon City over to the coastal side of Bataan and I took in the view during that car ride, watching as the scenery gradually and seamlessly changed from the quiet suburban streets, lined with iron gates that shielded family homes, to the skyscrapers of the city where cars waged their own chess matches in an attempt to outwit and outplay one another while navigating a persistently chaotic traffic scene.
Driving through the city was easily the longest and most frustrating part of the trip. But as a child I had barely grasped the concept of time and was content to watch the cars around me.
Soon, we reached the rural areas, with their sprawling fields where various crops sprouted from the earth as farm animals grazed. We also drove through a few small country towns, populated by stone houses, general stores and the odd school, church and government building while various mountains loomed in the distance, providing a rather majestic backdrop.


The beach must be somewhere out there.


As we got closer to the beach, where the bright blue of the ocean glistened in the distance, a scene unfolded before us that, to this day, I still find rather surreal. On the side of the road were groups of fishermen, their skin brown and leather-like from the harsh mid-day sun and dressed in tattered shirts, shorts and straw hats, drying their fish on the side of the road and warding off the swarms of flies that continually harassed them. It was a rather hot day and our car’s air-conditioning system had konked out and so we drove with the windows down and the strong, salty smell of fish instantly attacked us.
“Those are fish, Son,” Dad pointed out, “the fishermen are drying them under the sun.”
“Are they going to eat them later?” I asked.
“Ok, but first they need to wash the dirt off, right?”
Dad smiled, proud of his boy for pointing out the obvious.

We reached the beach not long afterwards and we were immediately greeted by a magnificent spread upon exiting our vehicles; palm trees, the vast blue ocean, white sand, shining sun, people walking around, relaxed and carefree as can be. For my still-wide-eyed, youthful self it was plenty to take in and I barely managed to contain the many emotions that bubbled within me, euphoria and curiosity being those at the forefront banging hard on the bars of the gate. My sister more or less felt the same and Mom had to pull us both into line.

“Settle down, you two,” she said sternly, “you don’t want to get lost, do you?”

Our group settled on a spot in the middle of the sand and the adults immediately unloaded, spreading towels on the sand and erecting beach umbrellas to ward off the sun before applying sunscreen on their children’s arms, shoulders, back, neck and legs. I wore dark blue swimming trunks with white stripes that day and I struggled to remain still as my mother lathered me up with sunscreen. The stuff felt sticky and uncomfortable and the aroma was quite intoxicating to the point of nauseating. Plus I saw this as a distraction to my play time, I just wanted to run off.
“Hold still,” Mom scolded, “do you want to get sunburned!?”
“The sun can’t burn me,” I shot back, “it’s way up in the sky and I’m down here!”
My young dumb self would be made to eat humble pie later that night.

The kids, accompanied by some adults, soon hit the water. The waves were not too wild that day, much to the dismay of any surfers in the area, so it was relatively safe for young children such as myself, my sister and some of my mother’s co-workers’ children to play without fear of being wiped out.
Well, we stayed in the shallow end and somehow, I freaked out. I’d looked forward to playing in the water all morning and reality ended up getting the better of me. My Dad had stayed in the sand chatting away with the other adults that volunteered to prepare the lunch and upon hitting the water, I wished I had stayed with him. I wasn’t sure whether it was the coldness of the water or the fact that the water was waist-height (for me, anyway) but somehow, I felt uncomfortable.
My mother sensed my discomfort and bent over to pick me up. I immediately latched onto her neck and it was fortunate that I was still young at the time because I could have easily choked her out.
“You’re holding too tight!” she said.
“I don’t want to drown!” I replied.

The water was only waist-deep for me and I was worried about drowning? Good grief!

Get a grip you wuss!

One of my mother’s friends and her children were not too far away and they seemed to be having fun and my sister seemed comfortable dancing around on the water without a care in the world yet it took me a while to see the fun side of it. But once my body finally acclimatized to the water I gladly splashed around with the other children while our parents looked on.


Lunch followed not long afterwards, barbequed chicken, rice and various fruits if I recall. Adults and children alike ate to their heart’s content and for the remainder of the trip the children played a game of tag while their parents huddled together under trees to ward off the sun’s rays.
All told it was a rather fun day trip. But there was a price to pay.
Upon arriving home, my sister and I both took a bath and as I poured water over my head, I felt a sharp stinging pain on my shoulders, parts of my back and the back of my neck, so much so that I yelped and was almost reduced to tears. I took a look at my shoulders and they were bright red.


What is this!?


My mother took a look at me and shook her head in disbelief.
“Looks like you have sunburn, Son.”
Sunburn? What the hell is sunburn!?
“You played under the sun for too long so you got burned.”
“But the sun is way up in the sky,” I whinged, “how can it burn me?”
“Because the sun’s rays can still burn you. That’s why sunblock is very important.”
I guess I shouldn’t have squirmed so much when she applied it on me. Some spots were definitely missed due to my messing about. I looked at my reddened shoulders later as my mother helped me to dress up for bed and grimaced.
“How long will this last?”
“Maybe for a few days.”
I felt my heart sink. In my young mind a few days might as well had been an entire month, that’s a long time to have to put up with these burning sensations.

I eventually learned how to swim later in my childhood and up to now, I like to think I’m a pretty good swimmer. No, I am not Michael Phelps but I can confidently say that I could handle myself in the water.
As for the kid that fell apart over waist-deep water, he eventually became a kid that grew to love the water and most beach trips for the remainder of my childhood were spent frolicking in the waves while dodging surfers. If you lost me at the beach all you had to do was head towards the water because chances are I would be there, playing around in the waves, having the time of my life until my fingers and toes were wrinkled.

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