My kids had already been at the beach for a few days when I arrived in Gulf Shores late last week. They'd already been tubing and playing sand soccer and lots of Marco Polo.
And my son — my 9-year-old — had reeled in a 2-foot shark out of the shallow water with a borrowed fishing pole. That there is what you call a summer memory.
They were out by the pool when I drove up, jumped out of my car and ran past them, straight to the water, yelling: "Sandig rumpa!"
My boys, they cracked up, yelling back: "Sandig rumpa!" a greeting that only one with a passing knowledge of Swedish would understand. And maybe not even then.
I charged past them toward the water, running, kicking, splashing and finally wiping out in the waves, heels over head, a 50-year-old body performing a maneuver more befitting a 15-year-old — but always the best way to start a day at the beach. I was in shorts, not a bathing suit, so when I came out of the water, I had pockets full of water, shells and sand.
I went running back to my kids. They were waiting for what happens next. We've done this a million times before: I shivered, shook my body with a beach chill. And then I yelled: "Sandig rumpa!"
And me and the kids, we lost it, man. Busted 40 guts. Then we all yelled it together: Sandig rumpa!
And we lost it again, just loving life, just gone, gone, gone.
OK, maybe you had to be there.
The "sandig rumpa" thing is a private joke me and my kids have had since they were in diapers, fittingly, because "sandig rumpa" — the sum total of my knowledge of the Swedish language — means "I've got sand in the crack of my butt."
Don't ask how I know this. It's got something to do with the 1984 World Cup, a Swedish zydeco band and a whole lot of thick brown liquor called Glug. Long story.
Anyway, it's a term that conjures up for my little gangsters of love some of the best of our family times.
It conjures the beach and what we do. There is nothing in the world to me better than watching my kids run wild and free and barefoot; sunburned, windblown, nettle-stung and sand-stuffed in every crack, crevice and orifice of their bodies. That sandig rumpa thing, for true.
This recent trip, of course, was marked by a bitter-not-so-sweet tinge, of course. Yes, the sand was virgin white, as always, and the water was so green that you could stand chest high in it and still see your feet.
But there was always that nagging question: Where is it?
Where's the oil?
There was none to be seen, thank God. Just beach balls, no tar balls. The currents have spared Flora-Bama so far.
Still, the crowds were down, way down, especially for Memorial Day weekend. And looking out over that vast, beautiful Gulf at night after the kids had gone to bed, I got to thinking that, for now at least, Louisiana may be a lost cause but at least there's this, the Panhandle, the beloved "Redneck Riviera," so very calming and beautiful, still America's best-kept-secret vacation destination.
There were no booms littering the beaches and no fleets of salvage boats skimming the surfaces, like there are just miles to the west, where folks in Mississippi and Louisiana are once again taking it on the chin for their fellow countrymen's insatiable thirst for petroleum products.
We had so much fun that, by the middle of last week, the kids and I were already talking about going back as soon as possible to do it all again.
Then I opened up a week's worth of back issues of the newspaper I had missed while out of town and read: Scientists and prognosticators said the Gulf's currents had shifted. The monster was snaking across Mobile Sound.
And now I find I've got a lot more than just sand in my ass. I've got murder in my heart.
And I'm just about ready to take these jokers from BP and all the other bastards and run my kid's fishing pole and that 2-foot shark and anything else I can find right up their own arrogant, big, fat sorry rumpas.