His name was Kevin. Or was it Randy? No, that’s how he made me feel that first summer of vacationing in Colorado with my folks.
Money always appeared scarce, so we didn’t take fancy vacations like the ones you hear of today.
When I was in junior high — because that’s what middle school was called in the days before “screen time” — my family, jam-packed liked sardines in the station wagon brimming with food coolers, groceries, suitcases and tackle boxes, headed west toward hills much grander than we could imagine.
My family rented a cabin in Green Mountain Falls, Colo.. It had four walls, indoor plumbing, running water, board games, intricate 1,000-piece puzzles and frisky black squirrels running outside. It was a charmed life.
For the first time I experienced hiking, horseback riding on mountain trails and fishing for rainbow trout. Our cabin was just down the road from a large fish hatchery stocked to the gills with trout of every platter size. Since no one in my family was an expert fisherman, we dropped our lines in the no fail zone every few days.
About 30 minutes into our family bonding time, I tired of fishing. But luckily, I met the boy and, oh, was he cute! He looked like a young Donny Osmond in an oversized baseball cap. I was smitten.
No longer did I want to hike or solve puzzles, I wanted to go fishing — for a summer boyfriend.
Traveling many years forward to last summer, my new family traveled to California for a beach vacation.
There were family walks on the beach, body surfing and magnificent sand castles.
Shortly after we arrived, one of my daughters made friends with a young boy about her age. He had sandy, sun-bleached hair, darkly tanned skin and a friendly demeanor.
“Mom, I met this boy and his name is Life!” she beamed.
Oh, boy. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
“Does that boy have family with him?” I asked.
“His dad and some gal are living down there on the beach,” she said as if that were just a normal bit of news. I looked farther down the beach, saw the amount of equipment they had, and I sadly realized my daughter’s new friend and his family were homeless.
The boy ended up joining us on the beach every day. Each morning he was waiting for my daughter and showed her the shells he had found or described the birds he had seen while she was sleeping.
One morning Life ran up with what looked like a small stingray in his hands. It was a sharkfish.
Life dragged that fresh carcass around most of the day to impress my girl. He would prop it up so it could watch them jump in the waves and build castles together. And at the end of the day, before the green flash appeared on the horizon, Life gave my daughter a touching gift… death in the form of bait. She was smitten.
As we were walking up the beach to our hotel, I informed my daughter we would not be keeping the gift. She looked up at me heartbroken and a part of me was crushed, as well.
“Honey, we can’t have that around me. Remember I’m allergic to bait?” I said with a smile.
She slowly lowered it to the ground, gave one final good-bye and said, “Yeah, plus it’s gonna stink in the morning.”