Sunday, September 18, 2011

The pied sandpiper

“Party rub!  Party rub!” my son Evan screamed, pointing at the front door of the beach house.

“Party rub?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, glad that I understood.  I had no idea what a party rub was, except that it sounded like something that, if it ever became public, would probably force your congressman to resign. 

“I can’t say with certitude whether that party rub was mine.”

But Evan continued pointing at the corner of the door, distressed, yelling “Party rub” over and over.

We had just returned from an afternoon at the beach just outside of Duck, North Carolina, where Evan had found the sand to be both diverting and delicious.              

“At least he’s getting his roughage,” I’d say as Evan plowed through the sand with his face, burrowing past the beach chairs of his extended family.  He’d then wrinkle his nose and try to wipe the sand off his tongue, but he’d only succeed in licking more sand off of his hands, which at that point could have been used to take the edges off of rough-hewn timber.

“Thand in mouf,” he’d say, gesturing toward the situation that several adults had tried to prevent.  Children at the beach are endlessly creative, especially regarding ways to pack sand into their orifices.

Fortunately, he had plenty of other distractions to keep him from dwelling for too long on his fifty-grit tongue, like terrorizing the native waterfowl.  Seagulls seemed to know better than to hang around a two-year-old, taking off for England any time we wandered close, but sandpipers made tempting targets, always just out of reach.

“Catch birdie.  Catch birdie,” Evan whispered, arms extended, as he walked after the sandpipers, which scurried to stay a few steps ahead of him.  The birds were in little danger of becoming a toddler’s pet.  Since they spend their whole lives skirting the edges of crashing waves, sandpipers have plenty of experience staying safely out of the clutches of destructive forces of nature.

The regular reader(s) of this column might recall that last week, I complained that the most damaging storm to hit the East Coast in recent memory had the audacity to cause me some minor inconvenience, mostly in the form of string cheese that was trapped in my parents’ no-longer-electrified refrigerator.  It’s stressful trying to grab food out of someone else’s fridge when the power’s out.  If you hesitate for one moment too long, you might doom their other perishables to being tossed, including their 96-ounce bottle of ketchup, nine years ahead of its time.  It’s easier to drive past Arby’s every fifteen minutes to see if their lights are on.

In any event, North Carolina cleans up hurricanes faster than we ever could have hoped for, allowing us to visit for a shortened week.  Just a few days after the storm, Evan was plowing his face across the beach, getting his US RDA of quartz near the very places where Weather Channel reporters had recently stood, ponchos billowing, demonstrating the havoc that nature can wreak on even the sturdiest hair.

Early in the week, we were returning from the beach to hose off Evan’s face and put him down for a nap when he started yelling about the party rubs.

“Is he pointing at a spider web?” my mother-in-law asked, and the case was cracked.  Spider web.  ‘Piderwub.  Party rub. 

“Dude, I had no idea what the kid was saying, either,” Dr. Doolittle would have said.

Apparently, spider webs are scary even if you don’t really know what a spider is, and even if nobody’s ever told you how many spiders, on average, crawl into your mouth and die while you’re sleeping every year.  Which is at least three, according to reliable playground sources when I was in the fourth grade.

 You can pound sand with Mike Todd at


  1. ooohh..partyrubs are creepy, and I have way too many here. I especially don't like when those striped partyrub dwellers dangle in front of my face as I walk out the door, or when I walk into one that I didn't see......

  2. Ha! If you need anyone to help spot 'em for you, I have just the little helper you need. It'll probably take him a few hours to find them all, so we'll be out at the movies in the meantime.