TRAVEL BUG TALES: GALVESTON BEACH JUST DOESN’T CUT IT
My mom’s happy place was Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Part of that happiness had to do with her bestie, Mrs. Lide, who was always with her there. I have to give Mom credit, though. She never quit trying to find a happy place closer to home. Nothing ever seemed to satisfy her like a walk along Myrtle Beach, but she never gave up and she was always optimistic. So she visited a lot of beaches, but for her, there was no beach like Myrtle Beach.
The first beach my mom tried to love in Texas was Galveston. Our first summer back, we visited family down in Houston and made the trek to Galveston. That’s when my Uncle Billy lost his wallet while he was fishing – one of my favorite stories, but I’ve already shared it.
The family made another trip down there, but I can’t pinpoint the date from the photographs I have. It could have even been on one of the family vacations we made from Georgia. In Galveston, you have a seawall and above the seawall you have a road. We stayed in a motel along Seawall Boulevard, right across the street from the beach. I thought I’d shared this story before, but I couldn’t find it here, so if you’ve heard it, excuse me. Even if I haven’t blogged about it, I know I’ve told it a million times, so some of you may be familiar with it.
As soon as we got to Galveston, Susan and I were dying to hit the beach, but my folks wanted a break from the drive. Because we’d grown up hanging out at the beach and were aware of the dangers, Mom and Dad felt parental supervision was unnecessary. Honestly, I was still young enough to be a little anxious about it, but old enough not to want to admit it. I was particularly concerned about crossing the busy highway. I was old enough to know all the rules, but had rarely had the opportunity to use them on my own, in a similar situation.
We crossed the road at the light, found a spot on the beach for our paraphernalia and waded out into the water. Very likely, I was holding Susan’s hand, because she was quite little. Within a few seconds of entering the water, Susan was attacked by a Portuguese-Man-o-War. In case you’re unfamiliar with the species, it’s a particularly nasty type of jellyfish.
I will never forget the absolute terror I felt when Susan screamed. I knew she wasn’t drowning, but I couldn’t immediately figure out what was wrong. Her leg was turning red and swelling, so even though I still didn’t know what was up, I knew I needed reinforcements.
Jane to the Rescue
I have become the overly-responsible sort. My husband laughs at me for my propensity to overthink a situation. Whether I am planning a party or packing a suitcase, I think through every possible scenario. This means I usually buy too much food for the party and carry entirely too much luggage, but I’m ready for anything.
I remember very distinctly, on that day at Galveston Beach, being torn between two necessities. I needed to get Susan to my parents, but I was also responsible for our belongings. I was nearly crazy with fear for Susan, but I was also scared to death of being chastised for being irresponsible about my possessions. I was still under scrutiny for the BBQ joint incident, which most likely contributes to my current state of hyper-worry.
So with a screaming sister in tow, I dutifully grabbed up our beach gear and headed toward the official crosswalk, when what I wanted to do was tear across the street, leaving everything behind and ignoring traffic signals. As soon as we made it across Seawall Boulevard, I was ready to give up my responsibilities and just be a scared kid. I made a beeline for our room and by then, I’m pretty sure I was yelling almost as loudly as Susan was screaming.
Sardines and Crackers
I’d be very surprised if we’d been away from the room for more than ten minutes. When my dad opened the door, I remember my mom was setting up a sort of picnic with sardines and crackers. Every time I see a can of sardines, I am transported back to this moment (which has greatly reduced my taste for these delicacies of the canned food aisle.) My parents didn’t immediately pick up on my panic. I’ve been known to overreact – another thing my husband points out to me frequently. I’m sure they thought, “What has Jane gotten into now?” (Which I’m sure my husband also thinks from time to time.)
However, in almost the same breath, they figured out this was the real thing and started trying to ascertain what to do, which I am sure was not exactly easy. I was yelling in panic, Susan was screaming in pain and we had no idea what caused our distress in the first place – only that we wanted it to end.
Almost immediately, someone else came into the room. Susan obviously wasn’t the first kid attacked by a Portuguese-Man-o-War. The desk clerk had seen us head to the beach and then return in a screaming panic. He’d seen that before and showed up with a bottle of ammonia.
Return to a State of Normalcy
Within moments Susan’s screams turned into whimpers and my eyeballs returned into my sockets. My parents were extremely grateful for the help and expressed their never-ending appreciation to the desk clerk. Eventually, I was asked for a recap and during my telling of the event, I am sure that I pointed out that I had remembered to pick up our towels – not that it relived me from hearing about the BBQ joint incident with great frequency.
Poor Susan…she was the cause of so many of my childhood traumas. She was still an infant when she split open her head by crawling into a piece of furniture. I couldn’t stand to watch them stitching her up and I couldn’t stand not to. Then there was the time she got lost at Mount Vernon and the awful bug bite. A schoolyard feud that followed me into junior high arose because someone accused her of something she swore she didn’t do. I may not have always been the best big sister in the world, but she knew then what she knows now – when you’re in trouble, Jane will help.