Today we took my sister’s kids to Lynch Park in Beverly. My sister had brought her kids up from New York City mostly to take them to Lynch Park. My mom went to Lynch Park when she was a kid. My sister and I went there (along with our cousins) when we were growing up and now I live within walking distance of the park and go there myself to bake in the sun.
The kids took to the beach instantly (of course.) It’s clean and has nice white sand and-tide pools. My oldest nephew wanted to go down to the water by the rocks. I showed him the tide pools and the hermit crabs and in no time we had a bucket and were collecting hermit crabs. I am happy to go hermit crab watching any time by myself. It’s like looking at one of those magic eye posters that were popular when I was in college. You stare at the tide pool and you see nothing until you see one set of legs protruding from a periwinkle shell and then you see another one and suddenly there are hermit crabs everywhere.
It’s (I think) and awesome occupation for young children because 1) it’s easy once you get the hang of it 2) it involves live animals but has no danger of injury to the kid and very little to the hermit crab. Even my niece, who wasn’t really into crab-hunting was happy to hold one in her hand and feel it tickle her palms.
Once you’ve got the hang of hermit crab catching it’s time to move on to (for the lack of a better phrase) “regular” crab catching. Hermits are pretty easy to see and easy to catch, but the small side-walking crabs are another matter. They’re camouflaged and they can swim and burrow which makes them tougher to catch.
Nephew and I had a small plastic sieve on a stick and I could pick up a rock and scoop up the sand underneath. We’d both peer at the mud and wait to see if it moved.
“Did we catch anyone this time?”
“No not this time. Let’s try another rock.”
Finally I moved one rock and out popped about ten crabs of various sizes-ranging from Almost Worth Eating to Penny Sized—It was like we were the cops who had just busted a crab-rave.
We chased after the biggest one with our plastic implements-both of us wanting to catch him but still a little spooked by his alien appearance (and afraid that he was big enough to pinch us). Finally we cornered him and got him in the sieve. As I dumped the crab into the bucket with all the others it occurred to me that for a few minutes I had not been an aunt playing with a nephew. Instead we were two people playing a game (Catch the Biggest Crab) and we were both doing the best we could (and probably we were about equally skilled even though he is five and I am almost 35.) It was not a "bonding" moment-it was better than that. I realized that I was treating him like a person--not like a kid who might be a person in 10 to 15 and it was great to be able to do that.
And that was the most awesome moment in an already pretty awesome day.