They say don’t go to the beach in winter

But we tried to prove them wrong. And we spent about an hour on the beach before we froze. 

We tried to play pickleball. The wind grabbed the ball with icy hands and threw it into the sea. The waves brought it back. We put away the pickleball. 

Inside we lit up a gas fireplace. You flick a switch, wait a minute, and flames appear from translucent green rocks behind a glass wall. If you sit really close, you can feel something. 

The first thing I do when I wake up is put an ice cube on my eyes. I rub it over the lids, below the brow, over the cheek bones. It makes my face wake up. Then comes the coffee. It makes my mouth wake up. Then, the words. 

My day job is to keep the planet from warming up. “Make Winter Cold Again.” Friday was the coldest DC day in three years. 

We went to the beach in winter for a birthday. Seth’s thirtieth. The Big One. The nice thing about him having a birthday during the worst time of year is being forced to Go Out and Do Things, when all you want to do is sit by the windows and mourn your lost cat. We got her ashes back two weeks after we gave her away in a cardboard box. It was only supposed to take one week. I called every day after and they told me she was still in “processing.” 

We gave up on the beach and went inside. There was a pool with a basketball hoop. Pool basketball is like regular basketball but super slow motion. And there’s no dribbling. You hold that little ball with all your might. And you run through the water like you’d run on the moon. Long, elegant leaps. You float between each one. 

I got Ellie back in cherry wooden box inside a brown paper bag. Also in the bag was a poem about finding her one day ‘beyond the rainbow’ or something stupid like that. 

She’s cuddled me through all my heartbreaks, every single one, except this. And through the milestones too. Becoming a real human adult. Now I’m thirty-one and Seth is thirty, trying to catch up. I spent all day cooking a big birthday meal, stressing over the bread that didn’t get stale enough to crumb, the missing cheese grater, the cake that crumbled when it came out of the pan, and the fact that no matter how hard I worked on this meal, he’d be just as happy with a DiGiorno. That I chose this. 

We went to the beach but spent hours inside. Talking, talking, and talking about life. Then we went back outside and couldn’t talk any more. The wind pushed the sand sideways and waves crashed over our voices. Our cheeks stiffened with cold. It rained, then it stopped raining. The sun poked a hole in the clouds. We thought we were prepared for the cold. We weren’t. But we chose this.