I don't really know her parents yet, so I can't say I understand, 'cause I don't. Melinda is almost 25 and has never been to the beach. Any beach-anywhere . As a lifelong Tennessee resident, and frequent redneck riviera visitor, this is hard to imagine. I mean, what sort of childhood does not include one sandfilled minivan and a funky hat? Her answer: We just never went, it wasn't practical..

Well, we were about to remedy that. My Uncle in Baltimore has a beach house in Ocean City and since they were busy the week after Fourth of July we get to meet them there for the holiday, and have it to ourselves afterwards.

The 16 hour drive means I haven't been there myself since college, but I exaggerate it to Melinda until she starts calling it Bermuda with blue crabs . (I swear I will have this shirt made for her and she just laughs)

We go to the mall to shop for swimsuits and she refuses to even look at what she calls the tinygirl store. She refuses to let me help, of course and meets me by the music store with a large Sears bag. I grimace and she pulls out a light blue one piece that looks like standard issue East German swim team.

"OK" I say, looking glum.

It fits, OK? You don't have to stuff yourself into to one of these.... walks away, miffed.

In the music store she is staring at a picture of Lisa Loeb on the wall. I want those She points. "You want a Lisa poster?" No, of course not, the glasses. (She means the little tortoise shell number Ms.Loeb favors). I am pleased she is going to give up her old wireframe spinster frames, but I don't want to ge too excited.

"OK, but why don't you get prescription sunglasses while you are it, you don't want to wear some geeky clipons to the beach do you? " She then pulls a pair of said clipons from her purse and holds them by one finger, like it's a dead insect. I put my head in my hands and just wait outside the vision shop. To my surprise she skips out of the shop an hour later with the tortoise shells and a big grin- the girl says I look fab, whatcha think of that? "I think she's right" and she gives me a public hug, which is a rare occurance indeed.

At the beach we have blue crabs, corn dogs and other healthy foods. We discover the boardwalk on breezy evenings and drink National Boh on the sand after dark. My aunt takes Melinda shopping for a second suit and then they go back to the city and leave us in the house alone.

Don't peek, I'm coming out...Here I am... It's a two piece! Melinda with red lobster arms and legs and bright yellow nylon shorts. On top, a snug tank top that accentuates the positives. My grin tells it all, and she blushes, which is hard to see considering her fried condition. So, you like? "Yes, now I can play little dog to your Coppertone girl!"

She squints her eyes for a minute, thinking, then grins again, getting it. Then, turning around, she sashays to the door to the bathroom and gives me a comehither over her shoulder. Like this? and wriggles out of the shorts, leaving soft white curves beneath the bright red oval cutout on her back.

I love the taste of salt and Coppertone.

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