by Ray Linville

bucket and toys on beachThe sounds of the surf call now like they do at no other time. June is the month for annual migrations to the beach for many families, particularly those of us who live in central North Carolina.

The urge to travel until we find the ocean begins at least by Memorial Day weekend, if not earlier, and continues to build until we have felt salt spray and inhaled sea breezes.

One of my favorite family pictures was taken when my granddaughter was not yet 2. I’m standing in the surf as rolling waves break at my ankles and holding her high above the rippling water. She listens but avoids looking down in case what is causing the sound is scary. We’re both staring off into the distance, not at any spot in particular, as the rhythms of the surf mesmerize us.

The touch of sand under our feet is just as enticing unless the feeling is too new a sensation as it was initially for her brothers. Sand was the perfect barrier to keep them on a beach blanket. They refused to venture off when they were learning to crawl. The sand grains were too foreign a substance, and how they gave way under the boys’ feet and hands must have been frightening—that is, until a summer or two later, as toddlers, they were unbounded by anything, much less a little sand or water.

Digging with hands into wet sand became a new hobby. The simplest designs were the most rewarding. Not even a toy shovel was necessary. Building a mound and guarding it with a moat to protect it from a growing high tide were great joys, only outdone by waiting for the mound to be washed away so that the project could begin all over again.

The granddaughter is now on the threshold of her teenage years, and her brothers are not too far behind. Our annual migration to the beach to greet the arrival of summer is now a well-established tradition. Although the fascination with surf and sand grows stronger each year, the journey to the beach is now incomplete without a walk to the ice cream store, a trip to the arcade and a lunch at a favorite restaurant that has a sand volleyball court.

To mark this time and place in our lives, I’ve acted like the typical grandparent and bought a “fish” with our family name on it for the boardwalk. A new tradition is to run to the fish and jump on it after we have bought our ice cream cones. With all our jumping, we’re now a family of frogs.

So far that overpriced fish is holding up just fine from all the leaping and hopping.  I hope that it lasts a long time and our memories of migrating to the beach last even longer.


Retired from the N.C. Community College System, Linville is a contributing writer for the N.C. Folklife Institute and conducts programs on Southern food, history and culture. He can be reached at