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Attack of the J.F.s

Posted on 14 July 2008

Ahh, summer….the kids are out of school, the ocean’s warming up, time to hit the beach, right?

Oh, but wait. There’s a big tropical storm churning up the waters somewhere far south of here and on the ocean beaches of the South Fork the waves are knocking over even the biggest linebackers at the knees. So what to do with a seven year old itching to cool off? Head over to the bay, of course! So that’s what my husband I did over the weekend with my daughter, Sophie.

When we pulled up to Sammy’s Beach lot on Saturday, things were eerily quiet. No one’s around. Hmmmm. July? Saturday? What’s up here?

For one, the biting flies. Vicious creatures. Persistent too. They like returning to the same fleshy spots for second helpings. I haven’t danced that way since the ‘80s.

So we decided to head into the calm bay waters to escape the descending hordes (flies, not people). Knee deep. Chilly, but refreshing. No bone crushing waves. Ideal for a little one.

My husband ventured further out first. Got to his waist, but had that look on his face. Sophie, in the meantime, was clamoring to go out deep with mommy. But daddy shot me that look, shook his head and said softly, “J.F.”

“J.F.,” for all you parental code aficionados, means “Jelly Fish.” And there have been loads of them around lately. Sophie has, alas, gotten a bit bay-shy I’m afraid in recent weeks because of them.

It’s one of those things I knew would happen. I only wish I had been there when it did. Mommy energy often makes stings less potent, it seems. But I was working late that night — the night she had her first close encounter with the dreaded J.F.s. It was at Haven’s Beach in Sag Harbor and she was with my husband and some friends. She must have stumbled into a field of them while playing in the water and retreated in panic and pain.

Apparently, everyone on the beach knew something had happened to her. I’m surprised I didn’t hear the screaming from my desk at work. Quite loud, I was told (she takes after me. When I was five I cut my foot on an incredibly sharp rock and later, my sister’s friend said they heard me screaming four blocks away – my mom wasn’t there that day either. Just my dad. The scream traveled.). The J.F.s got Sophie right in the folds at the top of her legs. Doctors, vets, bystanders all came running.

It really wasn’t that serious. It didn’t take long for the pain to subside and there were no marks. Later, long after the sting was gone, I told Sophie that if she ever finds herself in the wild and gets stung by a jellyfish, she needs to pee on it. Or, if that’s not possible, have someone else pee on it.

That bit of information seemed to empower, comfort and amuse her. Maybe it’s because it came from her mom, and at this young, impressionable age, mom still does really know best. I know that will change one day, but I also know that peeing on J.F. stings is a piece of advice she’ll never forget and may even use one day while surfing off the coast of Australia, or South Africa (once she gets over her fear of water and develops a decent swimming stroke).

I’ve always liked real experiences. Sophie takes after me that way as well. She prefers “fresh air, not fake air” (that’s open windows vs. air conditioning) and when it comes to parmesan cheese, she’ll take the freshly grated imported Reggiano over the soapy tub stuff any day.

But on Saturday at the bay at Sammy’s Beach, I must confess, I didn’t really feel like putting into practice the urine test on J.F. stings. What if it didn’t work? Would mommy’s powers be diminished in her still so adoring eyes? So we quickly abandoned the real beach experience, packed up the car, called a friend and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the clear, p.H. tested, fresh water of a back yard pool.

And guess what?

No J.F.s



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