I wonder if I could describe all the little things that make Calf Pasture special. I visited the beach last weekend with one of my best friends from school. When you go there at nighttime, you can walk out to the zig-zagged pier to the very end with the lookout machines. Someone told me once that lookout machines, the ones in which you insert quarters to magnify everything in front of you, were invented in Norwalk, but I don’t know if this is true. In the summertime, you can find men fishing for bluefish, which is also the mascot of the local adult baseball team. They crowd together at the end of the boardwalk pier, competing for the best fishing pool in the water. In the summertime their smelly pails dot the boardwalk, filled with fish squirming in dark pools of water. I always wondered if these men came together or all coexisted separately.
Now, in November, the boardwalk feels cold and brittle and quiet. You can look out onto Long Island Sound, see the shadows of the small islands around the coast beyond the beach. The biggest island shadow you can see from the pier is Shady Island, which I obsessed over as a little kid. I thought that the island contained a whole other country of people, until, a little deflated, I learned about the sandbar that connected the island to the mainland.
In the summertime, the beach sponsors local bands to play on weekday nights. Crowds of people gather on picnic blankets to hear older men play covers of blues songs. I think of men with salt and pepper beards wielding cans of beer, and of walking from the beach to the parking lot barefoot, carrying sand into the car and driving my father crazy.
On the Fourth of July we’d go see the fireworks, and the lights go off above the local dog park, adjacent to the beach. Cars crowd on the grass to look up into the sky. I remember hiking up into the wooded hilly section of the park and looking up at the red, white and blue through the shadows of leaves.
I have so many memories of playing on the playground there, in the wooded section of the beach called “shady beach.” My mom or dad would talk with their friends on a beach blanket or wander around as my brothers and I would find endless hours of entertainment bobbing around the dirty yellow plastic, especially the special swing with the long, precarious ladder up to the peak.
In the last few weeks of summer, for the past few years, my parents and our neighbors have camped out on an island off the beach. We’d kayak out with camping supplies and pitch tents on the side of the beach facing Long Island. The island is mostly beach, but the middle is wooded and features a swing hanging from a tree branch. In the morning, when you wake up in the tent, the sun shines through the tent plastic like a warm green sheen. The feeling of my bed comforter against the rocks below me. At night, we sit around a fire and look out onto the dark water. We make a strobe light by attaching a blinking flashlight onto a stick we jam into the sand.
No matter how late of a start we get, my dad insists on his evening swim, or bringing the kayak out for a ride. Kayaking around the islands with my dad before sunset; I love how the water feels at the same level as the island floors themselves. We look over to the other hugging coast at the power plant tower. Apparently, the power plant has been dormant for over ten years. My dad swears he read in the news that Heidi Klum had a house on one of the islands; we circle them making predictions about where the security cameras might be.
There are several parties going on at a time at the beach, the sounds of each one mixing in with the others. One night in July, my friend and I parked and walked circles around the parking lot at the beach. We came across a wedding ceremony at one end and listened in from outside the fence. We could see people dancing inside: the purple polyester sheen of bridesmaids’ dresses, the makeshift plywood floor, the shining glasses and knives and spoons. The cover band played “Locked Out of Heaven” but got the words to the chorus wrong.
Last summer, I babysat my neighbor’s kids five days a week and not knowing what else to do, I took them to the beach every day. For six dollars each, we could play mini golf together: the boys would get a blue golf ball and a pink golf ball and I would try to avoid playing until they corralled me and I couldn’t let them down. The welcome center is a small shack that plays Rolling Stones and other 60s greatest hits; the music rises from hidden speakers throughout the course so the ground sings to you. I’d watch the boys, lathered with big white patches of sunscreen and outfitted in their hats and mini sunglasses, and look out onto the sound from this little parking lot course. Sometimes I would take them out to lunch at the beach cafe, maybe bringing along some of their friends, and sit at a table for an hour or so with a group of five six year olds sitting at my level with the aid of booster seats.
It’s July and I get to drive to the beach by myself and there are so many new stories to tell.
Annie Nields | email@example.com .