Columns 2013

Give me a frozen paradise any day

Ah Hawaii. The place where white on the ground means sand, not snow. The place where you can walk outside without fourteen layers of clothes even in the winter. Hawaii… Alaska’s other paradise.

I’m going to Hawaii for my godchild’s college graduation. I’ll be there four days. This information usually causes people to look at me as though I’m slightly deranged, and ask why only four days when I could stay ever so much longer. The truth is that as much as I try otherwise, I simply don’t want to spend any length of time in a warm paradise. Give me my cold paradise every time.

This might have something to do with the fact that I grew up in Atlantic City about two blocks from the beach and ocean. So for me, these elements of nature are simply not as foreign and exotic as they might be to someone who grew up in the mid west or the Alaskan Arctic.

I spent my summers on the beach until I got old enough for my mother to get me a job at Bell Telephone. For all you kids reading this on your iPhones, there was a time when you needed a long distance operator to place anything other than a local call. And you actually spoke to a live person when you dialed information, a person who sat with telephone books in front of her and looked up your number by hand.

This was one of the more popular places to get a summer job to help pay for your winter’s education. Ma Bell offered a variety of shifts to cover their busy periods. One of these was called a split shift. You came in early in the morning and left by noon. Then you returned in the evening for another four hours. This was obviously not a shift that most permanent employees wanted. But for college students in the summer, it was perfect. You worked the morning, went to the beach in the afternoon, and then returned to work in the evening. Being young and energetic, you were able to keep this pace up long after your older colleagues would have collapsed. Sleep was for winter. The beach was for summer.

I never opted for that shift. I did the total opposite. I volunteered for a night shift so that I had an excuse to sleep all day while that pesky hot yellow ball was high in the sky. I got up as it went down. I slept as it went up. For me, it was perfect timing.

To this day I am puzzled by just when the change occurred, when I went from looking forward to the beach to avoiding it at all costs. It might have been when I got too old to haul a bucket and shovel down the beach to build sand castles. It might have been when I grew old enough to be self-conscious about my body. It might stem from the time a boy I was just starting to notice as a boy told me I looked like a boat in my bathing suit. Whatever, the cumulative effect was that I woke up one day and realized that having sand in my shoes and hair was not fun; that salt water made me feel dry and icky; that eating a popsicle on a windy beach made for a very grainy texture and taste; and finally, that I simply was no longer amused by a hot sun burning down on the pages of the book I was trying to read.

So I gave up on sand and ocean unless it was in the Arctic and cold, windy and challenging. But I love my godchild very much. I’m so very, very proud that despite being a military wife and mother of two she has been able to complete her college education that I’m willing to overlook my negative feelings about the joys of sun and surf and head to Hawaii. But only for four days. Any more than that and I start to feel weird in ways I can’t explain but that definitely has something to do with being able to go out with very few clothes on and not risk freezing to death.

Call me crazy. Call me Alaskan. But that’s just not right.