Judith Carole Kelley Orlando

The La Selva Beach House Incident


By Judy Orlando, 2018

When I was about 11 years old my cousin Carolyn and I were staying with my grandparents Mack and Minnie Maude Kelly at their second home, a beach house near La Selva beach in California. It was a beautiful house that my grandparents had built and I remember we had some family gatherings there and that I spent some time there in summers.

It was on one of these visits during an Easter vacation break that Carolyn and I were there when an event took place that nearly ended my life.

It was a sunny and seemed the perfect day for going to the beach and we begged our grandmother, who we called Aunt Maude, to let us go walk down to the beach on our own. She finally agreed that we could go but only on the condition that we only play on the beach and not go into the water because she said the tide and undercurrent were too strong and it could pull us under. We agreed we wouldn't go into the water and off we went in our matching two-piece red and yellow striped swimsuits.

When we got to the beach it was pretty hot so I suggested that perhaps we could just dip our toes into the water. We then decided it wouldn't hurt if we just waded a bit into the water. Once in the water, however, we decided to swim out just a little ways (we were pretty good swimmers) and before we knew it we were out past the breakers that protected the beach area.

About this time something happened and we were both pulled under the water. I felt like I was descending very deep and struggled to get back to the surface but I kept being pulled down. I honestly remember feeling like I didn't have any more strength and was ready to give up when I somehow got to the surface. We both continued to struggle but were close to the breakers, and though exhausted we kept above the water. I think we were both in a bit of shock at what had just happened and were unsure what was going to happen next.

Back on the beach we could hear a woman yelling that there were two little girls out by the breakers and that they were drowning. We saw some college boys head out towards us and I remember them forming almost a line in the water so that when they reached us they were able to pass Carolyn and myself back to the next rescuer until we were both safely back on shore.

We layed on the beach for awhile but decided we should go home. As we approached our grandparents house we agreed that we would never tell anyone about this. We got to the door but it was locked, as usual, so we knocked and my grandmother opened the door. As soon as we saw her we both started balling our eyes out. I don't think my grandmother at first knew what to think.

We continued to sob our way through our story of what had just happened and my grandmother hugged us and insisted that we come with her so that each of us could have a warm bath. She had a large pink tub and I remember how comforting it was to be in that tub with my grandmother watching over me but how tired I was. My grandmother continued to pamper us the rest of the day but she had two bedrooms and it became clear that the best thing for us was to go to bed and get some sleep. I was so tired I went right to sleep.

I learned my lesson and don't remember ever disobeying my grandmother again.

But it continues to be something I will never forget.