Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We are there...

You know it's been an awesome vacation when checking off "blogging" on your to-do list feels more like a chore than the outlet it usually provides. On Saturday, we returned home after a week at the beach, and although home is always a wonderful place to be, it's been hard to get back into the demands of everyday life....

The week was wonderful. Although we've vacationed most years before with the kids, it has always been to visit people, or with other families. This was our first extended vacation, just the five of us - and it was unforgettable.

Aidan was amazing. Although he had a healthy respect for the ocean and its powers, he was relentless in his pursuit of riding the perfect wave. With a wallet full of birthday money, Aidan bought his own boogie board, and spent hours - hours each day surfing the waves. We would drag him out every so often and make him rest - but he'd clamour back into the sea after
impatiently wolfing down a granola bar and some gatorade. He and I walked hand-in-hand in the mornings, searching for sand dollars and pausing to watch the clams burrow deep into the
sand. At the water park, he raced me down the slide, beating me to the bottom and grinning with triumphant joy. I taught him to play War, and he taught Jeff to play Pokemon. He read many books on the trip, including two of my all-time Roald Dahl favorites: Fantastic Mr. Fox and Danny the Champion of the World. In these ways, in our long and lazy days, we enjoyed so many of the hallmarks of my own summer vacation memories....

Leo reveled. With the largest sandbox imaginable literally at his fingertips, he became lost in a world of imagination and creation. He insisted he could hear the ocean in every seashell he picked up. Leo built one drippy castle after another, and all I could think about was my own memories of building sandcastles with my father - Leo, like me, was mesmerized by the fast start - slow drip - final plop of the sand as each peak was formed. Leo, like me, looked for
seashells to decorate the perimeter and capstone of each castle. Eventually, though, as it
happens to every man who's labored long and hard over a creation (while his mother badgers
him to drink more water because it's hot!) Leo had to pee. A particular unforgettable moment of our trip came when Leo told me he had to pee and I pointed to the ocean and said, "Well, go pee!" He gave me a funny look, shrugged his shoulders and trudged off accordingly. Glancing up a moment later to check on him, there he was, in all his glory - he'd pulled his trunks to his ankles and was peeing far and wide into the ocean, for all the world to see. I shouted "LEO!" and the sound of my voice alarmed our sunbathing neighbors. They put their books down as their
eyes swung out in the direction of mine - and a great chorus of laughter ensued.

Pax was a wonder. He wondered about everything. He took it all in, drank in the sea and the sand and the sun. He loved the ocean, cackled at the sight of Aidan boogie boarding and made a game of chasing Leo to the water's edge and back. He splashed and kicked in the gently lapping morning waves and in the shallow pools left over from the high tide at noon. He dug holes, sat in those holes, pretended to fall into the holes, then filled them up again. He was fascinated by the
seagulls and pelicans we saw, and in that over-generalizing way of almost-two year olds, he
applied his sign for "dog" to every animal he encountered. I tried to teach him to sign "bird," but all he did was laugh at my wings. Pax loved when Aidan would take him on little rides on the boogie board, pulling him along like it was a sled. He and Leo drizzled sand on each other, then splashed it off again. Jeff took him on long walks, perched atop his shoulders, and Pax's eyes
were huge, happy saucers gazing on the world from a new perspective. And he enjoyed luxurious naps. He napped in my arms, against my chest, in the warm sunshine with the ocean roaring in his ears. He napped against my back, secure in the Ergo, with the cool morning slowly turning warm as the day began on the ocean.

For me, it was the simplest of pleasures that made me enjoy our time at the beach the most. I took a nap in the afternoon. I read books. I spent evenings with Jeff, playing gin rummy and
sipping gin and tonics (our official drink of the week). I ran miles next to the surf, listening to the roar of the waves and watching the clouds spread across the sky. I watched the sun rise over the ocean in the morning, sipping my coffee with at least one child snug in my lap. I created memories for my children from the memories my parents created for me. I drank deeply and I knew that it was good.

Was it perfect? Hell no. The kids still fought and bickered. I still got frustrated with them. We locked ourselves out of the condo at one point. The lens on our nice camera got broken. Putt-putt golf was a TOTAL disaster. There was a particular potty accident from a certain four year old that was... memorable in its timing and quantity (where was the ocean when I needed it?) And
the long car ride there and back... oh, I shudder at the thought. They were AWFUL. I said to Jeff at one point, "We seriously need to videotape this right now. Because when people [who live far away] ask us why we don't ever come to see them, we can play this video for them and they will KNOW. They will totally get it!!"

But, as it is with the best times in life, the memory of the bickering and the broken and the "are we there yet?"s fades like tan lines in August, and the joy and the love we shared together, as a family, is all that remains.