Chasing the years, one wave at a time
Saturday, September 14, 2013 8:00 PM
In the past, I've promised not to turn this column into "Charley and Me," i.e. my own variation on journalist and author John Grogan's "Marley and Me."
However, today you're just going to have to put up with me as I break that promise, just a little bit.
As most of you know, Charley is my brilliant, beautiful, 4-year-old daughter. Yes, I said brilliant and beautiful. I know I'm her dad, so I'm biased on this topic, but that's OK. She's mine and she's precious.
She'll be 5 in October, and I really don't know where the last five years went. It's been a blur. She was born, I covered about 6,439 city and county council meetings, indistrict expense happened and, boom, she's 5.
We all have ways in which we track the growth - physical and otherwise - of our children.
When I was a kid, my Grandma Trainor used to measure my growth by standing me next to her back door frame and marking my height on the frame with a pencil. She would literally make me stand with my back against the frame, then, she would put a TV Guide flat on top of my head and make a line on the frame. She would write my initials and the date out beside the line.
I can still see those pencil marks in my mind, getting a little higher each year, right by my grandma's back door, just off the kitchen. My Grandma Trainor has been gone for many years now, and I still miss her.
While I've never had Charley stand against a wall with a TV Guide on top of her head, I was struck last week by just how much she has grown, physically and in terms of courage. I came to that realization while on vacation.
As much as I would have enjoyed being in Greenwood last week, receiving anonymous hate mail, tussling with politicians and getting fussed at by English teachers, I instead spent the week in North Myrtle Beach, sharing a beachfront house with my family and several friends.
If you read this column with some bit of regularity, you might know we take a trip to Myrtle Beach at least once a year. This year, we went twice. The goal is to eventually count all of the Wings and Eagles stores along the Grand Strand. So far, we've counted 972 stores, and that's just in the block between 76th and 77th avenues.
You are probably wondering, "Why are they counting Wings and Eagles locations?" It's simple: I like to keep track of all the places that sell live crabs, Confederate flag bikinis, Jersey Shore mesh hats, ninja swords, overpriced Frisbees and shot glasses with pictures of naked ladies on them.
OUR TRIPS TO THE BEACH now seem to serve as a marker for just how much my Charley has grown.
The first couple of years my wife and I took her to the coast, when she was 1 and 2, she wanted absolutely nothing to do with the ocean. She didn't even want to sit on the edge and let the waves trickle onto her feet.
Last summer, when she was 3, she was a little bolder. She was willing to walk along the edge of the water with us and let the waves lap up against her feet, above her ankles, but below the knee. Mostly she was into building sandcastles.
During a weekend beach trip earlier this year, the 4-year-old version of Charley was a bit more brave, wading into the water with me, but insisting I lift her over any big waves.
And then there was last week. At nearly 5, Charley fully embraced the idea of the ocean. Sandcastles were sent to the sidelines. Suddenly, she was a "wave jumper." We played in the waves with her until we couldn't stand it anymore and literally had drag her back up onto the sand.
Where did my little baby go? The one who didn't even want to put a toe in the water?
CHARLEY'S WILLING EMBRACE of the ocean wasn't the only way in which I was able to note her growth during last week's beach visit. In fact, a trip to seaside amusement park Family Kingdom gave us an idea of exactly how fast she is physically growing.
When we were at the park a couple of years ago, she was barely tall enough to climb aboard even the most low-key kiddie rides. You know how they have those "You must be this tall to ride" charts at the entrance to every attraction? Yeah, those have been Charley's enemy.
Last year, we were turned away at the Ferris wheel, as she wasn't tall enough to ride, even if my wife and I accompanied her.
When we returned to the amusement park last week, we headed for the ferris wheel. As we walked up the steps to the ride, the attendant had his eyes on Charley.
"Come stand right here, sweetie," the man said, pointing to the "You must be this tall to ride" chart. She needed to be 42 inches tall to get on the big wheel.
She backed up against the chart. She was 41 and a half inches tall.
So, I did what any good dad would do: I tousled her hair and fluffed it up until it poked up over the 42 inch mark. She had a little mini Conan O'Brien pompadour.
The attendant leaned over and eyeballed the situation. He rubbed his chin and adjusted positions and examined things as if top government secrets were at stake.
Finally, he looked at me.
"She's right on the line," he said, with a wink. He took our tickets and we hopped on for a spin on the ferris wheel.
The last five years have passed in a blink. Those years, with my Charley, have been the best five years of my life. I was reminded of that this week, watching her splash in the waves and seeing the smile on her face as she gazed at the lights of Ocean Boulevard from the top of a ferris wheel.
Are the next five years going to go by just as fast? Is there any way I can slow it down?
Probably not. So, I'm just going to sit back and hold on for the ride. I just hope I'm tall enough.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.