Peter may have been about nine years old and we were on the beach at Windy Gates. It was a sunny and calm day in late August. We were staying with Roger and Evelyn Baldwin who owned the Windy Gates property off South Road at that time. My mother, my sister Lucy, Peter and I had enjoyed days of sun and waves that were reasonably comfortable to ride without alerts every five minutes from concerned parents looking at their kids playing in the surf.

At about three in the afternoon, Peter suddenly sounded an alarm: “There’s a big wave coming. It’s a tidal wave!”

Here was a nine-year-old boy informing the scattered crowd of 20 or 30 people on the beach that a disaster was about to befall them. He was told to be quiet, to not scare everybody, and yet when we did look out to the east, over the Atlantic’s south shore, there was a bank of gray hovering in a linear fashion on the horizon. It was enough for everyone to begin asking each other, “Do you think that could be possible?”

“I don’t know, it does look ominous.”

Little Peter was heralding a big event and panic soared in the humid, August mid-afternoon air. Up flew the striped beach towels. Books and thermoses were stashed away into beach bags. Bathers in the water took the nearest exit wave out and joined their posse on the beach for the hasty evacuation over the dunes to the many splinter-filled steps that floated above them, winding up to terra firma which was the grassy lawn of the Baldwin’s yard.

While climbing the steps we craned our necks to look back toward the ocean for the tidal wave to make its presence more dangerously known. Then, when safely on the lawn, our group, a bunch of beachgoers, sun lovers, the worshipers of the 1958 summer, waited with bated breath and heavy hearts, afraid for the entire south shore.

Time passed. Maybe 15 minutes and then the rain began to sweep in. The cloud bank that looked like a tidal wave to a nine-year-old child came from east to west and was accompanied by thunder, but little else. We, the peanut butter and jelly group of Peyton Place devourers, had been lured away from the beach by a little boy’s imagination.

Oh Peter. My darling sweet beloved little brother. No one I ever knew could be as outrageous and convincing and talented and huge hearted. He had that intelligence that made perfectly grown adults believe in his unlikely knowledge. That is a quality you can’t emulate. Almost always, he was right.

I wrote a song the morning he died.