My Most Memorable Day

Lamond-Riggs Library

My Most Memorable Day

The Beach in January

SeashoreMuch of my childhood summers were spent at beaches in southern Maryland.  The family frequently visited Sandy Point but our two family favorites were Long View and Columbia Beach in St. Mary's County.

One Sunday morning in January, I saw my mother placing picnic baskets on the kitchen table. When I asked her what she was doing, she answered, "We're going to the beach."

"Mama, it's January," I said. "Nobody goes to the beach in January". 

My mother told me that my Aunt Bessie, her youngest sister, called and invited us to ride to Long View Beach with her and Uncle Saxton. "It's too cold to swim or to play on the beach," I said.  My mother just smiled. "Eat your breakfast. We're going to the beach."

I've never been fond of cold weather, so I continued to protest. Later on, my father and my two sisters came down the steps, got dressed in their coats and hats, picked up the food my mother had cooked and loaded up the car. When we got to Aunt Bessie's house, my mother's three sisters and four brothers were there with their families. We drove our caravan of cars to Long View Beach.  The drive took a little over an hour. I don't remember whether I rode with my parents or my Aunt Bessie and Uncle Saxton but I do remember that I was not happy about making the trip.

When we arrived at the beach, all of the children were told to head for the clubhouse.  The clubhouse, just like the beach, was empty. In the summer, the clubhouse was a place where the beach-goers went to get out of the sun, to buy refreshments and to just have fun. There was a jukebox in the clubhouse, and when people tired of the beach, they played music and danced.  The women began cleaning the tables and placing the food on one table buffet style. Someone started playing music on the jukebox. After a while, my Uncle Saxton announced that he was going for a walk. I don't remember if he asked if anyone wanted to go with him or not, but my cousin, Jackie, and I followed him outside. Jackie is Aunt Bessie and Uncle Saxton's only child.

Uncle Saxton always seemed far too serious to me because when I would spend the weekends with Jackie he would sit alone in the basement for hours way after midnight reading science books. It was years later that I learned that my uncle graduated from Howard University with a degree in pharmacy. As an African-American, Uncle Saxton was unable to obtain a professional job because of the racial climate in this country at the time. He was convinced however, that one day an opportunity would open up for him and he was going to be more than prepared to seize that opportunity when it came. Eventually, Uncle Saxton was hired at the National Institutes of Health performing cancer research. 

As we followed my uncle on his walk, I began to see the most beautiful seashells lying in the sand.  Then the most unusual rocks.  Several of the rocks were white with brown and gold streaks on them.  I began grabbing the rocks and seashells and stuffing them in my coat pockets.  "Look what I found!" I yelled to my uncle and cousin.

I didn't know that my uncle frequented the beach in the winter, so my finds were not unusual to him nor to Jackie.  I asked my uncle why these treasures weren't around during the summer. Uncle Saxton explained that the seashells were shed by marine animals and their shells would wash up on the beach during the winter. 

Soon I learned that Uncle Saxton's treasure was not seashells or rocks but driftwood. I asked Jackie why. "Daddy makes lamps out of driftwood," she said.

Later, Jackie showed me the beautiful lamp my Uncle Saxton had made from the driftwood. I stood in awe of my uncle's artwork because I didn't recognize it as the wood I saw on the beach. My uncle had painted the driftwood, put an electrical cord in it and placed a colorful lamp shade on top of it. The lamp was painted in beautiful bronze, gold and white colors.

My Uncle Saxton was a beautiful soul who kept his love for nature -- he also had a talent for gardening and birdcalling -- and his creative side hidden.  I discovered that side of him on a beautiful January day at the beach. Now every time I visit a beach or see seashells, I think of my Uncle Saxton.