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My Cousin Vinny, the Lifeguard

When you live on the West Coast with most of your family is out in the Hamptons and the time comes for your summer visit, all that’s on your mind when you get there are your Nonna‘s (meaning “grandma” in Italian) chocolate chip cookies.  Allow me to elaborate a bit before I sound completely nuts (also one of her cookies’ ingredients).

These aren’t just any chocolate chip cookies…the chocolate chips are gooey, the cookies are super soft — the aroma reaches from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Three Mile Harbor.  So when my trip was booked to see my family in the Hamptons, you can imagine the first thing that came to my mind — yes, the appropriate answer should be, “Yes, I’m psyched to see my family,” which I was – were the cookies.

My arrival to the Hamptons was wonderful. As usual, I was greeted by my uncle who is, in many ways,  like a father to me.  He explains to me that before I can go to my Nonna‘s, we have to stop at my cousin’s lifeguard recertification test at Indian Wells.  So I sigh and say, “Well how long will we be there?…Skip, I need to eat some of Nonna‘s chocolate chip cookies.”  He assured me that we would just be stopping by to check it out and then we would leave….WHEW!!! [expand]

We get to Indian Wells and there are at least (probably more) sixty lifeguards being tested.  At first, I couldn’t even see my cousin because until we got very close, they all looked exactly the same, quite frankly.  I saw a bunch of camera crews and, being  an actress, I asked my uncle jestingly, “Okay…who did you tell I was coming here?”  We shared a laugh and then I inquired what this testing would entail (since we’d arrived in the middle of the recertification).  He started explaining with a finger extended out towards the ocean, “Danielle, do you see that buoy out there?”  I stared and squinted and then replied, “Ummm…no!”

“It’s that white ball way out in the ocean,” he continued.  I squinted again — keep in mind, I require very high strength contact lenses and I cannot for the life of me see this buoy.  Suddenly, way out in God-knows-where, I see this tiny white something and I gasp and say, “That CANNOT be what you’re referring to!!”

“They start at the top of the beach, run to the ocean, swim out past the buoy, swim back, get out of the water and sprint to the finish line,” explained Skip.

“Seriously Skip?!  We’re gonna be here all day!”   HELLO….COOKIES!!!! “How’s Vinny (my cousin) going to do in this part of the test?” I then asked.

“He’s a strong swimmer, Danielle,” replied Skip with confidence. Some of these guys are professionals, but he should definitely finish in the top half.”

“Good. I don’t need to be missing out on cookies and feeling embarrassed.”

The race starts and it looks like my cousin is, in fact, in the top half.  What feels like an eternity later, I glance out in the ocean and the swimmers seem to be only half way to Europe — err — the buoy.  Parents cheered as camera crews made their way in for the perfect shot. Skip and I move closer to the ocean to get a better look, but this is taking forever and I really just want my Nonna’s cookies.

It then dawns on me — the fact that this is taking so long  is an indication of the phenomenal shape these lifeguards are in. While I’m spending all this time upset about my cookies, these guys are the getting the workout of their lives. I can’t even imagine what they’re going through. What a test!

FINALLY!….the first place guy comes in, then second place, followed by a significant lapse of time as I checked out the beach and continued to think of the gooey treats  that seemed like they may never come. According to my uncle, we have at least another thirty guys to go before I can see my cousin cross that finish line.  Out of nowhere, what started out as an echo and then turned into roaring, I heard it. “Go Vinny! Go!”  I turned toward my uncle.  “Are they talking about our Vinny?”

My cousin bore a smile from ear to ear as  he sprinted to cross the finish line.  Turns out Vinny had come in 3rd place.  At this point, I completely lost it….yes, there were children around, but I couldn’t help but scream, “VINNY!!!!….HOLY _ _ _ _!!!!   THAT’S MY COUSIN!!!!….3rd PLACE OUT OF MORE THEN SIXTY!!!!”

Over and over my family never ceases to amaze me, and my cousin ,as he continues to grow,  constantly makes me more and more proud of him. Parents, friends and children — rest assured that if any of you are having any difficulty in the ocean, my cousin will already be at your side before anything becomes a problem. Yes, he’s that fast!!

When Vinny and I both got home at the same time later that evening, I gave him a huge hug, congratulated him and shared Nonna’s tin of cookies with him.  And when I say, “Shared the tin,” what I mean is….I gave him one cookie.

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