For my grandchildren,
May 27, 2011

“Yes Ethan,” Mother said, “Even Spiderman was a little boy. Even Spiderman would need to wear a swimming suit when he went to the beach. Now, here is yours, put it in your suitcase, please.”

Ethan’s big brown eyes looked up at his mother. She usually knew the answers, what she said was right. He clutched at the new swimming suit in his hands. It was red and blue with small black lines running through it. It was the right colors. Ethan wondered how Mom always knew. He leaned over to his mother and hissed in a hoarse sort of whisper. “But Mom, they’ll see me outside of my, you know,” He rubbed his hand over his red shirt with the black lines all over it.

Mother leaned back and whispered, “That’s all right, they won’t KNOW you really are Spiderman, your Spiderman suit will be safe at home. Spiderman leaves his suit behind when he goes on vacation. I’ll just say, ‘Hello, this is my son Ethan.’ and maybe I’ll give you a wink, like this.” Mother winked her blue eye at Ethan and smiled wide enough to show her dimple. Ethan smiled back. He smiled so big his ears wiggled.

“I’ll hide it, Mom, my Spiderman suit. I’ll hide it in my drawers so no one will know that Spiderman lives here and he is on vacation While we are on vacation I’ll just pretend, you know, pretend to be just Ethan.” Ethan’s feet scampered down the hallway. His new swimming suit lay forgotten on the floor of his mother’s bedroom. Mother picked it up. She folded it neatly and laid it on the bed. She would try again later to give it to Ethan to pack.

There was noise on the stairs, lots of noise from feet and voices that chatted eagerly. Mother heard someone stumble and yell ‘ouch.’ There was a little bit of silence and the noisy feet started again. “Mom,” Leah yelled.

“Mom.” Emma echoed.

The girls burst into the room. Their faces were red from running. Leah had a red mark on her shin. Emma pushed her glasses up her nose and the hair from her face.

“Joey said you have new swimsuits.”

“He said we have to pack them.”

The girls sentences ran into each other. The words got all mixed up and jumbled. Leah didn’t wait for Emma to get done and Emma talked louder as Leah talked. Emma jumped up and down, bouncing on her toes. Leah hopped on one foot, she rubbed at the ‘ouch’ mark on her shin. But both pairs of blue eye stretched open in excitement.

Even though the words were all mixed up Mother knew what they said. She pointed to the swimming suits on the bed. One was white with pink polka dots, the other was pink with white polka dots. The girls grabbed at them. They pushed against each other and scrambled against the bed. Both hands clutched at the same suit. Both hands tried to pull it off the bed.

“Leah” Emma wailed.

“Wait, wait Emma.” Leah commanded. “We have to see what size they are first. See!”

Emma let go. Leah looked at the tag on the back of the suit. “This one is yours Emma.” She threw the pink polka dotted suit to Emma and grabbed the white polka dotted suit. She checked the tag. “See this one is mine!”

The girls held the suits up against themselves and danced around the room. They twirled and dipped until they bumped into each other. Emma laughed, Leah giggled. They started all over again and this time Emma bumped into Leah on purpose. Leah flopped onto the bed and made a silly face. Her swimming suit slid to the floor.

“Go,” Mother told them, “Go and pack them in your suitcases.”

Leah picked her swimming suit up from the floor. She held out her hand and Emma took it. They crowded through the door and Leah hit her shoulder. “Ouch” she yelled and rubbed at the spot.

“How long till we go?” Emma asked while Leah tried to see the mark on her shoulder.

“Three days,” Mother told them holding up three fingers.

“THREE DAYS!” The girls yelled. Leah forgot her ‘ouch’ and slumped first, then Emma slumped. Three days was a long time to wait.

Mother did not think three days was long enough. There was much to do to get ready for vacation. All the clothes must be washed, folded and put away. There was food to buy to eat in the car for the trip. The house must be cleaned and toys and books to pack also.

Each of the children made a pile of the things they wanted to bring. Mother looked at the piles. She looked at Emma’s first. To some things she said ‘yes’ and to some things she said ‘no.’ When she said ‘no,’ Emma said ‘no fair’ and pouted. Mother looked at her sternly and she muttered, ‘sorry’ and decided to try again.

Leah covered her pile and told Mother she wasn’t ready. She saw what Emma had to put back and Leah thought she better try again too. Mother said, “good plan” and left to check Joey’s pile.

Joey’s room was all neat. Everything was in its place. His pile wasn’t a pile. His pile was laid out in rows on his bed. Mother looked at what was there. There was a notebook and a pencil and a small box of colored pencils. Six books were in a stack, each one had a bookmarker just under the front cover. Next to the books were three bags of sports cards. There was a bag of baseball cards, one of football and one with both. “I have to sort these.” Joey said pointing to the bag that was all mixed up. “I thought I could do that in the car.”

“Good plan” Mother nodded. “But I think you need more. It is a long way to the ocean.”

Joey looked at the things on the bed. “Good plan.” He said with a smile and his dimples showed.

Mother went to Ethan’s room. His pile was big, it covered most of the space in front of the closet. It sprawled in front of the dresser and almost to the bottom of the ladder that Ethan climbed to get into his bed. Ethan looked at his mother. He looked at his pile. “Is it enough Mom?” He asked, “The ocean is a long ways away. Do I need more?”

“No,” Mother said slowly. “You don’t need more, you need less. Even if you were the only one riding in the car this wouldn’t all fit. Try again Ethan.”

Ethan groaned. He needed it, he needed it all. He began to tell his mother just why he needed each thing. “I understand Ethan, but try again. It is too much.” Ethan groaned again. He flopped on the floor on his belly. He spread his arms and legs wide and began to swish them over the floor. His fingers hit the pile and some of the toys went under the bed.

“Is this how you swim? Mom?” Ethan asked. He pulled his feet and arms from the floor and began to kick and paddle. “Mom? Mom?” Ethan asked again. “Is this how you swim?” He kicked and paddled some more.

“You’ll have to try in the water.” Mother said. “But first you need to fix this. The ocean isn’t that far away.”

“Ohhhhhh, I guess I’ll have to put some away.”

“Good plan” Mother told him. Ethan pulled out the drawer of his toy table. He scooped toys from the pile and plunked them inside. Mother sighed and left the room.

At last the three days were gone and they were nearly ready to leave. Each child had a job. Joey and Ethan carried the suitcases and boxes of food to the driveway. Leah shook out all the rugs and checked the windows. Emma watered all the plants. Mom and Dad packed all the things into the car. It was really full.

One by one the children climbed into the car. Emma and Leah got in first. They sat in the very back. Each one had a window. Mom said they were lucky they each got a window seat. When she was a little girl they had to take turns sitting by the window. On the seat between them were their back packs. In the back packs were their DS’s, paper, coloring sheets, books and pencil boxes. They each had a doll, a stuffed animal, a blanket and a pillow. Emma settled into her corner and Leah into hers. They looked at each other and smiled. It would be a long car ride but they would have fun.

In the middle seat Joey and Ethan each had a window. They too put their back packs on the empty space between them. Ethan plunked his stuff down. He piled his pillow and blanket and stuffed animal on top. They made a messy pile and slid over onto Joey’s space. Joey pushed them back and arranged his things neatly.

Ethan started to buckle himself into the car. “Wait, Mom, Mom, I forgot Buzz!” He hopped out of the car and dashed into the house. When he came back he was flying Buzz Lightyear with him. “Mom, Mom, did you see that? Did you see how fast I went? I was fast like Dash.” Ethan grinned and made his ears wiggle. Mother held the door and watched him buckle up again.

“I thought you were Spiderman.” Mother said as she waited to shut the door.

“Shhhhhh!” Ethan leaned over and said in a hoarse whisper. “Remember, no one knows because I am on vacation. I’m just you’re son Ethan.” Ethan squished his face up tight. He tried to close only one eye but both of them shut. Mother patted his head.

That’s right, you’re my son, Ethan.” She said and winked.

The car trip to the ocean took a long time. It took a very long time. It took so long they had to spend a night in a motel. Joey, Emma, Leah and Ethan crowded around Mother and Dad while they got the key to the room. The lady was nice and smiled at them. She asked if they were going to go swimming in the pool. They looked at Mother, they looked at Dad.

“Yes,” said Dad, “they are all going swimming in the pool. And so am I.”

Emma and Leah looked at each other and wiggled. They wanted to jump up and down but they knew they mustn’t make a commotion in the lobby. Joey said, ‘sweet.’ He said the word long, as if it had two parts. That is the way Dad and the uncles always said it. Ethan tugged at his mother’s arm. She was trying to talk to the lady. Ethan kept tugging until she said ‘what?’

“Mom, you didn’t say, you know,” Ethan tried to whisper. His mother looked a little puzzled. “You know, I’m Ethan.” He screwed up his face and tried to close one eye. It only looked like his face hurt.

“Oh, yes,” Mother said to the lady, “This is my son, Ethan.” and she winked.

When they finally got to the ocean it was late. The day had ended, dark had come and mother said they must wait until the morning to go to the ocean. Ethan went to bed. He thought of the ocean. Mother said it was big. Dad said it was salty. Joey remembered it and said it could knock you down and roll you in somersaults. Emma and Leah said it was cold. Ethan had been to the ocean before but he had been little. He could not remember it. He wondered if Spiderman would go in the ocean. He thought about sticky webs getting wet in the water.

“Mom, mom, MOM!” Mother woke up. It was dark. Two big brown eyes were looking into her blue ones. “Mom,” Ethan hissed, “Can Spiderman go into the ocean. What if his web gets wet?” Ethan waited anxiously for the answer. He wanted to go in the ocean.

“He doesn’t use his web on vacation.”

Ethan smacked his forehead with his hand. He should have known that. Ethan stayed standing by the bed. Mother opened her eyes again. She lifted the sheet and scooted away from the edge of the bed. Ethan crawled in next to her. It would be good to sleep in bed with Mom and Dad. Ethan snuggled under the sheets. Suddenly he sat up and turned to face his mother.

“Mom, mom, MOM!” he hissed in the dark.

“What Ethan?”

“Mom how long till we go in the ocean?”

“Not till morning, when it is light, after breakfast.” Mother said, keeping her eyes closed. Ethan’s eyes were open and wide in the dark. From the other side of the bed came a deep snore. Ethan cuddled under the sheets again. He gave a deep snore of his own. Mother poked him. The snore turned to a giggle and she poked him again. “Ethan go to sleep.” She said. “It is a long time until morning.”

All the children were awake early in the morning. They were hungry and ate cold cereal and toast. Joey poured the milk, Leah made the toast. Emma got a broom and swept up the mess. Ethan just kept eating. They put on their new swimming suits and ran from one window to the next trying to see the ocean. Emma said she could see it and pointed. They all crammed around the window. Leah whined because she couldn’t see it. Ethan jumped up and down trying to see it. Joey told them they couldn’t see it. What they were looking at was a parking lot.

The door to the bedroom opened. Daddy came out of the room. His hair was tousled, his pajama’s were wrinkly. He squinted at the clock. The children crowded around him. They all talked at once. Everyone wanted to be heard first. Daddy hushed them. He said they would go to the ocean after he and mommy had breakfast.. The children groaned. Daddy said it was vacation. That meant sleeping later than seven thirty. He looked around and found the things to make coffee The children groaned again. Daddy started the coffee and went back to bed.

After a long time Mom and Dad got out of bed. Dad drank coffee and Mom made toast. They took showers and dressed in their swimming suits with clothes over the top. They gathered the beach bags, the toys and snacks and a stack of towels. At last everything was ready.

“Finally!” Ethan yelled.

“Finally!” Leah said, like she was sounding it out for the first time.

“Finally!” Emma sang and twirled around the room.

“Really?” Joey asked.

“Really.” Mother said and they left the room. There were several other people on the elevator. Joey and Emma and Leah counted down the numbers as they rode down to the lobby. Ethan crowded next to mother. He tugged at her.

“Going to the beach?” Asked a woman with a smile at Ethan.

Ethan didn’t say anything. He tugged some more until Mother looked at him. He scrunched up his face. This time his nose crinkled but he couldn’t get his eye to wink.

“Yes we are.” said Mother. “And this is my son Ethan.” Mother winked.

The elevator doors opened. Mother made them wait for the other people to get off first. It was hard to walk down the hall and through the lobby when they wanted to run and shout, but they did. Outside Daddy made them wait and look carefully as they crossed the parking lot and the road. A path led over a hill to the beach. They scrambled up the path and stopped at the top of the hill.

Ethan looked at the ocean. He looked at the beach and at the sky. It was all big. It was very big. Birds he did not see at home skimmed below the clouds. They were white with big bodies and made harsh cries. Birds with long bills and a pouch sagging below it skimmed above the waves. Smaller birds ran on long skinny legs over the sand. The waves made noise. They made big noises and little noises. The sun used the ocean like a mirror. Bright lights glittered off the waves.

Ethan had been warm, his skin hot and ready to go into the water. Now the wind blew across the ocean and onto the beach. The water looked blue and grey. The waves sounded crisp. Instead of feeling hot, his skin felt tight and tingly. Under his feet the sand was cool. At first it felt hard when he stepped onto it but then it pushed down under his feet. He curled his toes into it. Under the top layer the sand was wet and even cold. It all made Ethan shiver

Joey, Emma, and Leah yelled. They ran down the hill and over the beach. They dropped the toys and blankets they carried. They ran out of their flip flops and left everything behind as they ran to the water. Each of them left a set of footprints in the sand. Three tracks of dents led down to the ocean. At the edge they stopped and squealed as the water touched their toes. At the edge of the sand the waves were large. The white foam rolled high and splashed as it hit the shore. The three of them sat down. They sat and let the water tickle their toes. They were not ready to go into the ocean.

Ethan ran down to the ocean also. He was careful not to run over their footprints. Ethan wanted to make his own. He looked back at his steps. Everyone would think a little boy had run over the sand. They would not know it was really a little Spiderman on vacation. He stopped at the edge of the ocean also. He let the water wet his feet. He stood and watched. He wanted to make sure nothing bad would happen. A bigger wave rolled into him. This time his foot and ankle got wet. He reached down and touched them. They felt sticky. Ethan looked at the bottoms of his feet. He looked at his toes. He touched all around but he did not touch a web from his feet. He lifted first one foot and then the other and wiggled his toes.

Ethan yelled to Mother. “Mom, Mom, my feet are sticky!”

“That’s the salt in the water Ethan. We will all be sticky all over by the end of the day. The sand will stick and we’ll have to take showers.” Daddy knew all about the ocean. He had lived by the ocean as a little boy.

Ethan watched as Mom gathered up all the things that lay scattered at the bottom of the hill and over the beach. She picked them up and placed them on a blanket. Dad punched the umbrella into the sand and opened it. They would stay at the beach a long time.

Yelling came from behind the hill. A little boy came running. A mom followed with a baby and a dad came with another little boy. They pulled a wagon through the sand. Ethan watched the little boy. He ran like Ethan did to the edge of the water. He made sure his footprints showed in the sand.

The little boy let the ocean tickle his toes. A bigger wave came and got his legs wet to the knees. The little boy reached down and touched his feet. His eyes got big.

“The ocean makes it sticky.” Ethan told him and pushed his cheek with his hand. It squeezed his eye shut like a wink. “It does that to everybody.”

The little boy blinked both of his eyes. “Can you run as fast as Dash?” The boy asked.

Ethan started to run. “Run fast!” He commanded, “Run fast like me!” The little boy ran next to him. They ran over the sand where the ocean made it dark. It was cool and wet. It was fun to run. Ethan pumped his legs, he moved his arms. Next to him the boy ran too. They ran until they were tired. Their feet felt sticky from the ocean.

“Spiderman takes vacations.” Said Ethan and pulled the eyelid down over his left eye.

“So does Ironman.” said the boy and blinked both eyes quickly.

Up on the beach the mothers looked at each other. “That’s my son Ethan.” Mother said.

“That’s my son, Cole.” said the other one.

“Spiderman?” Asked Mother.

“Ironman.” Said the other mother.

The mothers looked at each other and winked.





Order Steeple in the Distance

Book is shipping now limited copies are available, order a copy now

Order Now ›

Article Categories

Recent Posts

“And sometimes I think about a one-and-a-half-year old child with its baby teeth still coming in, whose days on this earth were so very, very few.” (National Geographic, July 1988, page 53) The author of the article, haunted by that scene as he unearthed the remains of a 4th century town on the Island of..

Read More ›

We spent a half week with all nine of the children and the twelve grandchildren. The occasion was our son’s wedding. Tears  threatened when the boys, now men, stood as groomsmen for their brother. The struggle of our grandson to stay awake and the relaxed attitude in one of the boy’s suits served to prevent..

Read More ›

Reason for the neglect of the website– little girls mostly six, occasionally seven, all granddaughters. The oldest at 4 an 6 shared books on the porch swing.               Big cousin at 2 1/2 years take charge of the those a younger by a year. Pool fun includes a rinse,..

Read More ›