By, Al Graham
In the summer of 1969, we moved into a cute, three-bedroom cottage, one block from the silver sands of Coronado Beach. “Mayberry RFD”, “Ozzie and Harriet”, “Leave it to Beaver”, and just a dash of “Wizard of Oz” – pick any one or all of them together, for Coronado, was that real life community with its living residents the same as the characters in these shows, right down to Barney Fife. Safe and quiet — doors remained unlocked and front door keys were rare. It was a twenty-block square piece of heaven. At night, luminous cartoon like breakers thundered onto the shoreline.
Anne and I took our son, Dylan, down to the beach one evening. It was eight p.m. Many other families had already gathered at the foot of the breaking tide. All the parents had flashlights. The children carried beach buckets in spades. I had never been to the beach at night. When Anne said we were all going to watch the running, I thought it was a local custom, something like an evening flashlight run. Everyone else knew what to expect, except me, of course. Children were jumping up and down as parents stood behind them shining their flashlights into the water. People were not running at all nor did they plan to do so. I looked very, very silly when I ran up and down the sand holding my light like a marathon runner. Dylan loved it, but other parents just looked at Anne as if she had a visiting retarded relative.
Anne yelled out, “Here they come! Look, Dylan!! There!! There!!” She was now running to meet the tide. Everyone else followed and began scooping. I looked into Dylan’s bucket. It was full of teeny, little silver fish swirling around furiously. All the rest of the families were scooping up buckets of these squirming fish and waving around their flashlights in this truly bizarre “flashlight fishing”.
Even though I had progressed a lot since Anne began educating me, I had still not yet achieved meta-cognizance. So, when she had called out to me, I heard only parts of her statement. Actually, it was only the one word, “running” that stood out. However, being a highly intelligent creature with the IQ of an eighth grader, by the next year when the ritual came around again, this time, I heard and fully comprehended the entire sentence. “Papa, come on! We’re going down to the beach to watch the grunion running!”