Once Each Year

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A brother's birthday combined with New Year's Eve set the scene for annual beach picnic excursions...

 

In my childhood

New Year’s Eve

was equalled

only by Christmas.

 

We donned bathers and hats

piled into Rickety Kate

~ our Ford of ’27 vintage ~

and headed for the beach.

 

My father drove

along endless country roads

over the narrow bridge

with the bend high above water

which scared me so much

I hid behind the front seat

until danger was past

and I knew we would not fly

to our deaths

encapsulated in our car

at the bottom of the river.

 

An early lunch

ensured a vacant table

where we spread a cloth

crockery and food

prepared by my mother

in previous days

of searing heat.

 

We devoured chicken salad

my brother’s birthday cake

and family specialties

made from secret recipes

then

we grudgingly cleared scraps

and packed left-overs.

 

Restrained to allow

an hour for lunch to settle

we were like chained puppies

impatient to frolic

in the water.

 

When unleashed

we ran until waist high in the sea

squealed as undercurrents

dragged our feet from beneath us

and bolstered ourselves

against the strength of waves

anxious to break

over our heads.

 

We collected shells

built sandcastles

and watched them disintegrate

with the incoming tide

then we ran for another dip

before splashing Mum and Dad

as we begged a canoe ride

in the river’s mouth.

 

With the sun’s descent

we flopped     exhausted

onto vinyl seats

that stuck to our legs.

 

We fell asleep to the engine’s hum

content in the knowledge

that in one year

we would again enjoy

our annual family outing.

 

c. Kathryn Coughran

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