Long Key State Park

If it looks like a mud-hole and a beach had sweaty sex one night and spit this place out, that’s because it did. Okay, okay, maybe I’m being harsh. But I like the feel of sand between my toes, not sticky, squishy mud that you find yourself sinking slowly further and further down into, before you begin to wonder if perhaps this is what quicksand feels like; one moment you’re fine and the next you’re thinking, “oh God, I’m going to die!!”

Still, Brooke and Dave had wrestled the three kids into the car and Brooke spent the better part of the afternoon locked in a deadly battle with a migraine in order for us to reach this jewel of a destination. We were determined to enjoy it. Once we managed to get all of the kids in their swim gear, the three of us all took turns letting the boys pour mud down our backs and watched Aaron start a baby hermit crab collection on his beach towel. He must have accrued about ten or so before he discovered the king prize: a tiny little gray sea snail. He carried it around in his hand studying it with intense fascination, hermit crabs forgotten in their pile and left to make the long trek back to the water on their own.

When I asked Aaron, “what’s his name?” he looked at me like I was silly and told me matter-of-factly, “I don’t know.”

“Well, why don’t you ask him?”

His eyes widened and he pressed his big face down, an inch from the snail cowering into the deepest crevice of his shell. “What’s your name?” After listening long and hard, he grinned up at me and said, “he says his name is Steady.”

I watched Aaron carry Steady around for the rest of the time we were at the beach, his interest in everything else around him lost. When Brooke, Dave and I looked down over the rail of the stairs and watched a stingray float through the murky waters right through where the kids had been just a few minutes before, we decided that this was about as far as our relationship with this beach needed to go. (See the last photo in this post.) Coaxing the kids out of the water and back to the car was bad enough, but when Dave told Aaron he couldn’t keep Steady as a pet, I watched the kid who didn’t seem capable of crying for more than twenty seconds at a time burst into tears of the deepest despair, and for fifteen minutes he was inconsolable. I remembered a time from my childhood when I sat crouched underneath a full, heavy moving truck, heartbroken over having to leave my dog behind, and my heart went out to him.

Finally, we stuffed sand-dusted feet into sandals, sat wet butts on towel-draped seats, and made the long drive back up the keys.

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