Although Claire is a California girl, the first time putting her toes in the sand was in June at Skaket Beach on Cape Cod, MA. I spent every summer of my childhood searching for horseshoe crabs and sandollars at this bayside beach, so of course I want to introduce Claire to the tidepools, tall sea grasses, and green-flash sunsets.
I waited until after 4pm when summer parking regulations are lifted. It is $20 to park at a Cape Cod beach now! Claire fell asleep on the five minute drive from my grandparents B&B, so the click release of her seatbelt woke her up. Disoriented and groggy, I carried her down to the sand line. I think the early summer winds woke her right up. She started to kick and rotate her feet in circles like a boat propeller. She does this when she is happy. Claire earned the nickname “Swirls” from her happy feet.
I walked barefoot across the sand and stopped just before touching the patches of foam left by the waves. So the sand in this spot was a bit damp; the sand perfect for castles with moats and digging holes to catch hermit crabs.
I put “Swirls” down bottom first into the sand. She looked up at me unsure about this new environment. I proceeded to dig a small hole in the sand, sprinkling sand on her swirling toes. Claire followed suit. She reached down and dug into the beach like she was raking for clams; a long sweeping stroke. Then, she slowly pulled her fingers into a fist, filled with unaware sand. I knew what she was going to do next. All things new and old end up inside a baby’s mouth.
I developed a hypothesis….
Hypothesis: Adults don’t eat sand. Most likely due to the overpowering salty flavor and course texture against the teeth. So if Baby A tastes sand, she too will quickly reject the substance due to the shockingly salty twinge on the tongue. Therefore, all babies will learn that sand isn’t for eating.
“Swirls” brought her clenched fist full of Cape Cod sand towards her wide-opened mouth and went right inside. I watched her, waiting for her to look up at me. Waiting for her to scrunch her face in suprise. Waiting for her to try and spit out what was in her mouth. Or for her to cry. Or throw her arms in the air in protest.
Nothing. She didn’t protest. Didn’t scrunch. She didn’t even look at me. She ate the sand like it was movie theater popcorn. She sent her fist back in for more, raked, and put more sand in her mouth. And then did it again. And again. And again. She didn’t even stop to take a breather. She just kept on snacking.
After dealing with the surprise that my hypothesis was completely incorrect, and after videoing the experience to show her in college, I realized it was time to stop her. I think she could have kept eating sand until the sun went down. I wonder if her taste buds that register a salty flavor aren’t functioning?
To work off all that sand, I dipped Claire’s toes in the water. She loved that too. We spent the next three days at Skaket Beach. But I didn’t let her eat anymore sand. Is East Coast sand ‘healthier’ than West Coast sand?