A little more than twenty years ago, I was working for Heritage USA, the brainchild of Jim Bakker. Mr. Bakker (as we learned to refer to him) wanted a high-quality vacation destination designed specifically for Christians. I knew nothing about Jim Bakker and his lovely mascara’ed wife, Tammy Faye, when recruiters came to my college campus that spring of 1985. But a guy I knew named Bill said it would be fun, I should go for an interview and before I knew it, I was driving east in Bill’s hatchback car, heading for Fort Mill, South Carolina, and a summer job.
Six weeks into the summer, my summer-job roommate (who’d managed to make our former Motel 7 room with shag aqua carpeting look marginally appealing with the magic of indirect lighting) dragged me to a Bible study gathering. I had avoided these sorts of events because frankly, after two years of Bible college, I was kind of Bible-Studied out. I couldn’t bear sitting through another emotional session of “sharing what the Lord has laid upon my heart.”
Hey, so sue me. I must tell the truth, nothing but the truth, so help me, God. I didn’t want to go, but I went, mostly because the guest speaker was someone who was the son of someone famous. (Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?) The students sat in a giant circle on the floor. As a “let’s get to know each other” sort of ice-breaker, we were instructed to say a few words about ourselves: where we went to college, what our future plans were.
The fun began and one after another pious student declared his or her super-spiritual life-plan. For instance, “My name is Suzie-with-the-big-hair-from Tennessee and God has called me to minister to inner-city people who don’t have shoes,” and “My name is John-with-the-swagger-from-New-York and God has given me the gift of evangelism–my tapes are on sale at the back of the room.” Maybe you have to grow up in a Pentecostal home to really appreciate the utmost seriousness with which young Bible college students regard themselves and their “call to ministry.”
I was a bit disillusioned already, plus I was sick of college boys, so I concentrated on not rolling my eyes as my turn approached. I was nearly the final person to speak and so, when it was my turn, I proclaimed, “My name is Mel and I attend ________________ Bible College and when I grow up, I’m going to be a rock star.”People laughed and the meeting went on.
Within a few days, I’d met my now-husband, a man who noticed me first at that meeting when I issued that ridiculous proclamation. He and his friend (let’s call him Rich) had said, “We have to meet that girl!” because apparently they appreciated my humor.
So, fast forward twenty years. I say all that because you should know that I have Jim Bakker to thank for my weekend. You see, Rich and his wife, (who I promised to describe as breathtakingly beautiful, bright, and at her goal-weight–oh, and did I mention that Rich is a tall, wry, funny guy?) invited us to their family cottage at Long Beach, Washington, to dig razor claims over the New Year’s holiday. We’ve been friends for twenty years, which on one hand, seems impossible because I’m only twenty-two in my brain, yet on the other hand, I can remember events from twenty years ago as if they were last week. Time is warped.
Did you know you can only dig razor clams during six prescribed time periods in Washington State? Despite being almost a native of Washington State, (I moved here when I was four) we have never been razor-clam digging before, so we looked forward to this new adventure and accepted the invitation eagerly. Did I mention that we also like free accomodations, that we adore our friends, plus, we’re hoping that Rich’s wife’s parents will adopt us, especially since her father has excellent toys and can build houses with his own two hands and her mother is the hostess with the mostest, a woman worthy of emulation? And last but not least, they live on a lake when they aren’t vacationing at the shore. What’s not to love?
Rain has drenched our green corner of the world the past few weeks, yet Saturday morning when we bundled up and walked from the cottage to the beach, the skies were dry and we discovered a calm, windless shore. I removed my jacket, in fact. The crashing waves mesmerized the children, so they raced to the foamy edges and then scambled out of the way. My husband (aka Mr. Safety) warned them repeatedly to watch out and then, a rogue wave pounced on him and my blue-eyed twin, drenching them to their thighs. After that, we were all a lot more careful.
A few hours later, when my 3-year old ocean-loving daughter and I returned for a second walk along the shore, the wind had picked up, and by low-tide that evening, a steady, cold wind blew. At 5 p.m., we twelve (Rich and his wife, their twins (boy/girl), and the wife’s parents, and my family of six) drove in three vehicles onto the beach (that stretch of beach is an actual state highway, strangely enough) and down to the section where we intended to pluck clams from their sandy beds by lantern-light.
Along the darkening shoreline, a string of lantern-lights bobbed, as far as you could see in each direction. Soon, the sunlight faded entirely and only faint starlight and lanterns illuminated our way. We broke into three groups, circling a lantern and stomping along in the low-tide sand. Occasionally, someone would yell, “WATER!” and we’d grabbed lanterns and children and scurry out of reach of the waves. Even better, someone would yell, “I HAVE ONE!” and then someone would plunge a clam-gun (pictured on that website) into the sand and twist, twist, twist it, and then pull up a core of sand. A boot toe would nudge the exposed sand and the clam would be revealed. The hunter would scoop it up, drop it into a net and then, stomp around some more, peering in the dark for the telltale pucker in the sand which indicated a clam beneath. (When you stomp, the clams dart into their shells, which leaves an indentation in the sand.)
(Low-tide happened to be in the evening–and that’s why we hunted in the dark. Sometimes clamming takes place in daylight.)
My 3-year old was bundled in snowpants, a coat, a hat, and mittens and seemed a little chilly, but really, the ghostly waves sneaking up in the dark were the real reason she and I abandoned the clam-diggers for the relative warmth of Rich’s truck. We sat for half an hour in the vehicle, listening to a CD and watching distant hovering balls of light through the foggy windshield. Then she said she wanted to go back (“I will not be scared anymore. I promise!”) and so we traversed the dark shore again, heading toward the lights. We rejoined our group and orbited the pools of lantern-light, hunting for quarter-sized circles in the sand.
Then the rain came and most of us headed home because we’d had enough. (The limit is fifteen razor clams per person and we didn’t find that many. Our haul was more like sixty, I think. I even dug one up myself.)
That night, I sent my kids to bed by 10:00 p.m., even though it was New Year’s Eve. They didn’t protest much since they were exhausted by brisk ocean air and the day’s strenuous activities. Even though I’d been nodding off, at 11:45 p.m., I joined Rich’s wife, her parents and her children (the irrepressible 9-year olds who never once seemed tired) and we drove down to the boardwalk where we saw about the New Year’s fireworks, which lasted about three minutes. We wore silly glasses and posed for photos in the dark and were back home by 12:15 a.m.
We slept two nights at our friend’s newly remodeled and gorgeous cottage. I, for one, was awed by the multitude of outlets available in every room and the well-thought out lighting. In the bedroom I used were five light-switches . . . talk about living in the lap of luxury! From the new second-story, we could gaze out at the crashing gray waves or watch satellite television or squint through a high-powered telescope while sitting on leather couches.
I thought about slipping into a closet and never leaving, but alas, the children found all the good hiding spots when they played hide-and-seek, and besides that, who would wash all the sandy laundry when we got home if I were mysteriously “lost at sea”?