This photo was taken in Princeton on the beach I grew up next to. At the time, my mom Laura (shown right) was my only close biological family. Miranda, the little girl in the photo (with her back to the camera) was like a sister to me but not related. Miranda’s parents (her mother Becca mainly) were best friends with my mom and I loved spending time with them more than anything. They lived in Santa Cruz about an hour and a half south of us. We never drove down to visit them because the car wasn’t strong enough..they always came to us. We’d usually end up on the beach, weather permitting, and there are hundreds of photos like this one to prove it.
1. I was probably not much older than this picture reveals when we had a very bad experience at the beach. Miranda’s dad Fred was helping us build sandcastles right near the water’s edge while Becca and my mom laid out in the sun and chatted. Us girls weren’t taking it very seriously, we were young and just wanted to play in the sand. Fred, however, was taking it very seriously and had made a very nice detailed castle. For some reason I thought it would be a great idea to smash his castle. I thought it would be an even greater idea to have someone else smash it – Miranda. I cupped my hands up to her ear and whispered to her that she should smash it with her hands. She laughed and nodded with a sneaky grin as she crept over towards where her dad was sitting. With fingers spread out on both hands and arms raised high she crashed down hard onto the castle and smashed it in! We both started to laugh but it was cut short as her dad’s face became very red and angry. Then out of nowhere he slapped her face. Not just a little slap, a hard painful sting of a slap that instantly caused a flood of tears to pour down her cheeks. I stared in horror as he screamed “MIRANDA! WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR!?” She was so hysterical that she couldn’t speak and instead just pointed at me. I jumped up and started running towards Mom who was at least a hundred feet away. She was already hurrying towards us with Becca at her side shouting “What is going on!??”
I got in big trouble that day for being devious but no one suffered as much as poor Miranda. I don’t think I ever stopped feeling guilty for that moment and no matter how many times they visited after that, I was always terrified of her father.
2. Sitting behind my mom in the sand are a pair of Birkenstock shoes<** which I realize I accidentally cropped out when I scanned the photo sorry!**> .Mom said she could only wear that brand because she had a bone spur in one of her heels and every other shoe she had tried was too painful for her. Once she told me how she had gotten the bone spur. It had developed after she jumped out of a window (running from a dangerous ex-boyfriend). When she landed from the jump her foot was fractured and never the same. In my entire life I have never witnessed her wearing any other shoe than Birkenstock, and always the same exact style. Since it is an expensive shoe (especially back then because we didn’t have much money), Mom would often have the soles replaced at a shoe-repair shop instead of buying a new pair. Those bottoms would be worn down to paper before she would bring them in to be fixed. I used to try them on but they were way too big and I didn’t like how slippery the inside texture was against the bottoms of my feet. I did like the leather smell that radiated from the box when she finally gave in and bought a brand-new pair.
3. The red wagon in the lower left corner of the photo was probably one of my favorite childhood toys. We lived on a huge lot and since the trailer we lived in was so small, I spent a lot of time outdoors. My Radio Flyer could carry anything around that property. Stuffed animals, cats (if they were patient enough), dollies, dirt. And when I had a friend over we could pull each other around for hours. I loved the way the gravel crackled underneath the little rubber tires as it rolled. When the bottom finally rusted out and gave way, Mom took two flat pieces of wood and cut them to the size of the wagon so I could keep using it. I wasn’t allowed to sit in it anymore but I could still put a patient cat or two, or some chickens in there. If there was nothing living in it I would grab the metal handle and just run with it flying behind me across the rocks, gopher mounds, and weeds. I loved the power of steering the wagon around and pretending I was driving a car.