Our swimsuits were all packed away and we had still hours left in our drive, but we decided to stop anyway.
We were on our way back to the city, away from the fresh air and the sea, and we knew the boys hadn't gotten enough of either of them. It's not as easy as I had hoped to sneak away to the beach when you're in town for a funeral.
One look at that neatly strapped, rainproof-tarped luggage rack and I knew we weren't getting their suits out.
I thought we could just let them play on the sand for a while, make sandcastles, maybe just hike up their shorts, but I was kidding myself. You can't just dip your toes in. It's the ocean!
The obvious answer would be to strip them down to their undies and let them loose, but I was hesitant. Ever since L started having seizures, I've been militant about having spare clothes for him whenever we go out in public. I never, ever want him to be humiliated, stuck in wet clothes because there was nothing to change into. A toddler wouldn't have cared much, true, but I didn't want to start habits of complacency on my part that could hurt him later on.
Likewise, though we've had to rely on his brother's shorts a few times in a pinch, it was always M who ended up in just boxers, not L. An older brother's noble sacrifice was easier for mom to stomach than poor, defenseless L without any proper clothes on.
I know preschoolers probably run around in public wearing underpants everyday, in every city of the world. But for me, in our situation, it has always represented letting him down.
In the end, we did it. I wasn't going to let my own hangup keep them from enjoying a morning in the sun. M ran off without a second thought, but L lingered, worried. "What will people say when they see my underwear?" he whispered. "They'll say 'What a lucky little boy, to swim in his underwear!'" I assured him. And off he went.
And that was it, just a completely uneventful day at the beach for two little boys swimming in their underwear. Until we stopped for lunch.
We ordered crab omlettes and washed the sand off with bottled water. We put their dry clothes back on and sat watching the gentle waves. A man in a tiny, white speedo and his wife came walking up the beach toward the restaurant. And just as they passed our table, L exclaimed:
All together now...
"What a lucky old man, to swim in his underwear!"