As a waddling toddler on the beach in the 90s my parents navigated patches of tar hiding in the clumps of seaweed. Tar is what we call the lumps of black oil bound together by salt and sand from past oil spills. Curious toddlers and spotted Jack Russel Terriers can not resist a good patch of tar to step through. We'd return from long days on the beach exhausted. Soap and water are no match for tar. It requires torturous process of scrubbing our feet, elbows, and sometimes faces with WD40. The black gunk quickly clings from one infected area to another. White plump skin becomes an oily black mess nicknamed tar baby. Our dog gained new artificial black spots from the smeared oil on his coat.
The tar disappeared from the beaches for several years. My eyes were still trained to look for it as I walk thanks to the constant refrain of my mother yelling, "tar baby" in my head. Like an eradicated disease it disappeared from our Atlantic shore line for nearly a decade. My first walk on the beach in almost a year told a different story. Clumps of tar lined the fresh tide line. Ominous black patches waiting to ruin your day mix with the plastic, glass, and lost shoes that mark the signs of civilization on this idyllic white sand beach. I zigzag around it. I can almost see the rusting can of WD40 sitting next to the outdoor shower. I picture my wailing eyes as it gets scrubbed off with a green scotch bright pad. It will happen again and there will be a new generation of tar babies, birds, fish, and dolphins thanks to our grand addiction to black gold.