notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Counting

When I go to the beach, I spend most of my time counting.

Counting heads.

I watch everyone. I worry about someone drowning. Someone might not be watching someone they love. Just for a split second. Someone looks away and someone goes under. It won’t happen on my watch.

Because I watch.

My mother watched.

I must have been a lifeguard in a previous life. And my mother was a lifeguard in her previous life. Perhaps we have lifeguards going all the way back… my ancestor counting heads as Moses parted the Red Sea.

I like to read at the beach, but I stop after every two paragraphs and count. Where is the little boy with the striped bathing suit? Where is the girl with the blue bikini? Where is the old woman in the straw hat? The pale man with the hairy back?

Everybody will stay safe under my watch.

I count heads. Twenty-four now. Oh, that family is leaving, but here are two more families. Twenty-nine now. I count.

Okay. The little boy with the sailboats on his shorts has put on a sweatshirt. He’s here.

Ah, there’s Moses, my ancestor said. He’s safe.

When I was nine, my little brother wandered away at a relative’s lakeside cottage. My father thought he was with my mother. My mother thought he was with my father. Then they realized he was gone. And the lake was so big. I think that was the most frightened I ever saw my mother. She was terrified. My brother was found. He was safe. And still my mother cried.

She forgot for a moment to count.

And so I count.

There is the lady with the white sunglasses. If she takes them off, I must remember her hair. She has a braid. I won’t forget her.

There are the teenagers kissing. They will watch each other. But I will make sure. They could go under together.

Not on my watch.

Everyone will stay safe. The children on the shoreline, the brave ones in the water, the elderly under their umbrellas, the readers, the sleepers, the frisbee throwers.

I count.

I count people because people count.

matunuck2009rev

33 Comments

  1. I do the same thing. I’ve retrieved a few children, too.

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    • In my first book, one of my characters has saved someone from drowning. To save someone’s life, I think, makes your own life worthwhile.

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  2. I grew up on an inland lake. We were at the opposite side of the lake from the beach so I didn’t watch that so much. But when the lake froze we watched the fishermen. Sitting on their buckets fishing through a hole in the ice. Early in the season and late in the season we watched more carefully as the ice was thin. Still they walked across it. Once my mother and I saw a guy walk across the lake and disappear. Then just his head was above the ice, a small black dot that no one would see. We called the police and our neighbor. The neighbor pushed a rowboat out ahead of him till the ice broke. He pulled himself into the boat and used the oar to break the ice and paddle toward the young man. He got to the kid just as the police were heading out on the ice with their own rowboat. The young man survived. I think about him every winter.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That amazes me. What if you had not seen him? Everyone’s life changed because you did.

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  3. I so get it – the counting. You convey it so well. Perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I love the beach and it soothes me… but I am hyper-alert at the same time.

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  4. Perfectly write…. Chuck’s

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  5. lydiaschoch

    This is really interesting. Do you do the same thing when you’re in other settings, or is it strictly a beach/water thing?

    I find myself being similarly hyper-aware of where everyone is and if they’re okay when I’m out in nature, especially if I’m hiking/camping/walking with children. I have no idea why. Nobody I know has ever been lost in the woods or anything like that. It’s just a quirky thing I do.

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    • I’ve never really thought about until you asked. I do watch kids at an outdoor picnic or event. But it seems like it is only at the beach that I watch the adults too.

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  6. I watch kids in parking lots and stores.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Kids in parking lots! But it seems that I am hyper-vigilant for adults too at the beach. I cannot think of another situation where I am as concerned for adults too.

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  7. Once I was stung by a Jelly Fish, where I had to be brought straight to Memorial sloan Kettering, and had to keep every appointment and take every medication prescribed with an Appointment Card and a Prescription Card.

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    • That must have been so scary. It happened to my brother-in-law too…. very serious. I don’t think my diligence would have saved you from the sting, but I would have rescued you!

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  8. I also count. I always assumed it was a habit I picked up from when I taught Preschoolers. Maybe not. This is a lovely post.

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    • I’m sure teachers of young children must do this all the time. I’m not sure why I do, but I think it goes back to my little brother being lost at the water’s edge.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes it happens and i completely agree with you

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In a bit of a role reversal, when I almost drown Maui, it was a little boy who saved me and then two very lovely gentlemen who dragged me out. They then gave He-Who a bit of the stink eye for not keeping a proper eye on me.

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    • I would not give He-Who the stink-eye, because I know how easy it is to not pay attention for just a moment. My mother and father with my baby brother taught me that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad your baby brother was found OK. In my case, he was paying attention and watched me the whole time. He thought I was having fun and didn’t realize I was in trouble. He felt really bad afterward and I can still pick on him about it.

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  11. Christine

    Maybe it is genetic because I always watch little kids at the beach. Many years ago on a Caribbean beach I saw a little girl with just those arm floaty things on getting far from shore, where the water was over 10 feet deep. I walked out on a dock to get close to her and asked if she was Ok. She said that the water was pulling her out and she was scared, so I jumped in and brought her back. By then her mother realized what was happening and was in a panic. So now I always watch as many kids as I can.

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    • Probably you were traumatized too by our little brother going missing at the lake. It is so easy for a kid to get in trouble, but I also watch the adults… especially those who appear to be alone. Someone needs to look out for them too.

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  12. Sd Rayhan54

    so nice

    Liked by 1 person

  13. nicely written !

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I count people too, so it was nice to read that other people do it too

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    • I think many of us do… it was our natural protective and kind instinct.

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  15. Irks a good idea, especially around water.

    In high school, while in line for a play, I saw a graduate who was. Or expected back for weeks. “Laurie,” I said, “What are you doing here?” Her youngest brother had drown, and she was back for his funeral.

    Keep counting.

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    • What a sad story. I can’t imagine losing a young sibling.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. myblogmybusinessmymoney

    Does profiling people inside the bus counts?

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    • Not unless you are making sure that all the passengers are safe 🙂

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  17. I couldn’t understand your post, till I read all the comments. For me, beaches have been full of people so I couldn’t possibily think of checking on everyone. But I have never had this habit. Thanks for your post, I will be more vigilant, and keep a watch on others. It’s an important message, we need to take care of each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Where I live the beaches are busy but usually not too crowded. If they are very crowded, I just keep a watch on my immediate neighbors, and hope others are doing the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. nicely penned

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  19. i really like it. the message catches my heart.

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