Beach fashions have always astounded me. I have never understood why heavy people wear horizontal stripes and thin people wear vertical stripes. Not that I am in any position to criticize, mind you, as I sit there in my fashionably unfashionable combination of pajama bottoms and T-shirt.

Hats are big this year. Until this summer the baseball cap with the curled peak reigned supreme, but this year, there are all manner of variations on headgear, some of them apparently designed by aircraft engineers.

One of the most popular hats this year is the safari hat with flaps to protect the wearer’s ears and neck. Very sensible and probably very expensive when the same effect can be had by stuffing a $1 kerchief under a baseball hat.

There were also broad-brimmed Bahamas-style straw hats with colorful bands that were more for style than for protection. I also noticed a lot of scarves in the style of the American flag wrapped around people’s heads. I saw this a lot when I was younger, but usually as a form of protest, and it is reassuring to see it make such a strong comeback without any hint of irony.

I also noticed that nobody walks empty handed anymore, for the sheer pleasure of walking. The young men, especially, seemed to need a prop of some kind, whether it was an empty soda cup or a football they jiggled in their restless hands.

Many of the women came with young children whom they pushed in front of them in a newfangled carriage with big wheels, a kind of beach tractor jammed with the contents of the average suburban home.

I have also noticed a lot more people holding hands as they walk the beach this year. Not just young people but also older people seem unashamed of expressing their closeness in public. It’s if people have been made more aware of the temporariness of life and aren’t afraid to show each other, or others, for that matter, how much they care.

I notice a lot more parents spending time with their children at the beach, too, especially fathers with daughters.

Often the father doesn’t do that much, just helps build a sandcastle or lends a supporting hand to a little girl braving the boisterous waves for the first time. Sometimes these fathers will offer words of encouragement, but often they’re just there, watching carefully while their legs turn blue in the cold Atlantic water.

The daughters invariably stay close, happy to have some quality time at last with a father who is often absent for the rest of the year, working hard to pay an endless tide of bills.

I observed these moments with a special pang, wishing I could have had more of them with my own daughter as she was growing up, knowing how soon the moment of separation comes.

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