Honestly I thought the beach was the safest place for us to be. I was certain that if were going to run afoul of the law it was going to be for peeing out of the upstairs window of the Villa St. Henri, or for throwing cornichons down on unsuspecting passers-by (really, I have no idea why the cornichon was the missile of choice), or for climbing the skinny, quivering trees at the Parc Mistral, much to the chagrin and downright disgust of the old men who colonize the benches there. Or frankly, for the amount of noise and mess we make everywhere we go.
But I should have seen it coming. The beach was getting much less friendly. As soon as we arrive, other beach goers spot us and are all too quick to suggest other, more spacious spots for us to take, anything to get us far, far, away from their tanning. And I’ve noticed that the radius of space around us on the beach grows each day. People scatter within minutes… funny because we don’t look like lepers.
One afternoon last week I left the boys on the beach for a few moments while I went back to the apartment to put the baby down for a nap. I dashed back to pick them up and Bennett proudly announces, “You missed the cops!” At which point Efram jumps up and sings,
“We got a-rrested! We got a-rrested! We got a-rrested!”
I plop down on the towel in instant defeat. The boys had been playing with their Norwegian beach-friend, Oscar. Oscar’s mother is a lovely woman. She is very tan and very blond and I still like her. (Oscar also has a sister who is nine and does not wear a bikini top. The boys refuse to make eye, or any other, contact with her.) I look at his mother for an explanation. She tells me that the three boys had been skin-boarding along the shore and had crashed their boards into a smarmy little French kid in red blow up arm-bands who had been following them around for days. The kid’s mother went ape-shit and called the beach police. The boys were told they cannot board when the beach is crowded. Fine, I suppose. Oscar’s mother seemed to think our boys were completely in the right, and maybe Oscar was, but I know that trouble follows my boys like a shadow. She bought them ice cream to cheer them up. I’d have pulled them off the beach by their ears. Perhaps I’d be nicer if I lived in Oslo and was very blond.
Then the cop (who I didn’t see, but I cannot for the life of me stop picturing Peter Sellers in a speedo, God help me) asks my miscreants where their mother was, because they could not be on the beach without a parent. For a split second, before the swift Norwegian rescue (“Oh, they’re with me!”), my boys could have been carted off to a windowless room in Cannes for a lengthy interrogation about all the criminal acts they’d committed on the Cote D’Azur. And with the exception of the hassle of having to track them down and bring them back, I can’t say I’d have been upset. A few hours with some foreign law enforcement, even if it is hapless, might have been all they needed.