Oof, what a rough week I had last week! Sleeping in every day, drinking way too much coffee in the morning, then making my way out to the beach, swimming in warm aqua-blue dolphin filled waters, reading my book in the middle of the day, chatting and laughing with friends and family, cocktails under the tent, gorgeous sunsets, playing cards with my nieces, and the list goes on. Lucky me, it was the epitome of a vacation.
We’ve been doing this vacation at the beach in Alabama (my family, extended family, and friends that are family) since 2003, and every year feels a lot like the one one before, but still, every year since I’ve started this blog, I’ve felt the need to write about it. This year I decided I’d write about my favorite thing from each day. Here goes:
Day 1 – Sunday: The Storm
We almost never get big thunderstorms back home in the northwest. Our rain comes in a constant drizzle rather than a fly-by down-pour. But at the beach these storms roll through regularly, and today, our first day at the beach, a real doozy came through. We had recently arrived and everyone was sitting on the beach enjoying a glass of wine and catching up, the air thick with humidity and perfectly still. But behind the houses the sky was jet black and advancing quickly towards us, so we packed it up and and made our way inside. But Todd, our friend Jack, and I lingered as the wind picked up, the sand whipped our feet, the birds flew frantically overhead to safety, and the black clouds covered our sky. It was beautiful and exhilarating. Then the heavens opened, huge raindrops started falling, and we decided it was time we went inside too.
Day 2 – Monday: The Paddle Board
Later in the day the wind picked up and so did the waves, so Nadine and I grabbed the paddle board and went for a wavy laughy ride. It was too rough to stand up, but I got on my knees to paddle and Nadine rode behind me, with her beautiful tan and gorgeous smile, and we paddled along the shoreline, hoping to spot a dolphin, watching the fish jump all around us, and the pelicans flying by so low and close we shouted, “Hello pelican!” practically in their faces.
Day 3 – Tuesday: Ocean Beach Cake
This afternoon, as we were all sitting on the beach under the shade tent, we partook in “Ocean Beach Cake,” which for me is also “Time Travel Cake,” because with every bite I am whisked back to the Jersey Shore in the 1970s. I have no idea what the cake is actually called, we’ve always called it “Ocean Beach Cake” but it’s a super delicious spice cake with a coconut glaze topping that Barb’s mom makes. Back in the 70s, when we went to the Jersey Shore with Barb’s family every summer, following the same menu every year, we always had Ocean Beach Cake for desert on the first night. Fast forward 40 years (yikes!) and here we are at the Alabama coast – best family friends together again, sharing this most delicious tradition.
Day 4 – Wednesday: Life Jackets
This afternoon, three of my favorite teenagers got on a two-person kayak, with fishing poles and a cooler full of bait, and said they were going shark fishing. (Really? Sharks?) Sitting under the shade tent, we waved them off and watched as the kayak got smaller and smaller until it was just a tiny speck near the horizon. I didn’t like them being so far away, but I didn’t worry much, until I saw Todd and Uncle Gary running out of the house and down the beach. The girls and I took off after them and as we got closer we could see that the kayak had capsized and we could see only two bobbing heads in the water. Uh oh. (Did they actually catch a shark that pulled them so hard they capsized?) We ran. Finally we got to the scene and could see all three boys in the water, dragging the boat to shore, and my niece yelled, “No way, I think they’re having fun!” Turns out the hull had filled with water and a wave had pushed them over. We were all incredibly relieved, had hugs all around, and said, “Thank God for life jackets!” Then a Coast Guard helicopter flew overhead and we waved enthusiastic “everything’s okay” waves and headed back to the house for lunch.
Day 5 – Thursday: Book Club
It’s important to have a good book at the beach, and last year, coincidentally, three of us brought the same one: Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons. I have no recollection of what it was about, it was just a fun beach read, made even better by the fact we were all reading it. This year we deliberately chose a book to read before-hand, and six of us ladies read Never Let Me Go. It wasn’t quite as fluffy as last year’s book, but it was a quick read, and this morning, since everyone else had finished the book, I woke up early and decided I wouldn’t leave the house until I was done. It was an odd book, an uncomfortable topic, but interesting, with good characters, and a big mystery that finally unfolded (thank goodness!) at the end. Best of all, it was a great book to discuss, and we had such a lovely beach book club meeting under the shade tent this afternoon. And a new tradition has been kicked off!
Day 6 – Friday: Fireworks
It was really hard to pick my favorite thing for today since I did so many fun things. I started my day with a trip to the fort with Todd, Miles, and Ben. Fort Morgan is a fort on the coast that was built in the 1800s to protect Mobile Bay, and the boys loved exploring it, and I have to admit, so did I. Then after lunch we had our annual mini-golf competition, followed by ice cream cones at Scoops. Just after finishing our ice cream another crazy storm came through, followed by the most dazzling sunset which we enjoyed on the beach with a glass of wine, while the kids played ultimate frisbee. Then we had a delicious dinner of local shrimp and pasta.
After dinner the three houses came together at our house to watch a fireworks display extraordinaire, courtesy of Uncle Paul. It had been another super-fun beach day, even though I didn’t spend much time on the actual beach, so I decided that the fireworks were my favorite for today, because it was the perfect ending to a perfect day, spent in an extraordinary place with people I love so much. Sappy, I’m sorry, but true.
Day 7 – Saturday: The House
We have rented this same beach house for years, and while I’m not a huge fan of the dolphin themed decor or the blasting cold air conditioner, I do love it’s big open floor plan, the big well-stocked kitchen (with the exception of a salad spinner), the three tables that are pushed together so 16 of us can dine together every night, the puzzle table in the corner, a TV area, and huge windows overlooking the beach. I actually try not to spend too much time in the house, but today another storm came through, so we all ran inside and found our happy places – at the puzzle table, in a comfy chair by the window reading a book, playing cards, eating chocolate cookies. It may not be my house, but it sure feels like home.
Of course this year really wasn’t like other years because my sister Maureen wasn’t there. I felt really sad and worried before we got to the beach about how weird it was going to be without her. But it ended up that I didn’t cry a lot or feel super sad like I thought I would. Instead I felt a sort of contentment, or maybe gratitude is a better word, for all the years she did go, and for all the years we got to spend with her there, in our worry-free bubble, creating all of the traditions and bonds and memories that we continue to carry forward. Lucky us.
We checked out of the house Sunday morning, and Todd and I flew out of Gulfport, Mississippi, and the kids drove home with my parents to spend a week with them in South Carolina. It was good to be home, and this week, unlike last week, has been really productive. It should have been party-central, or make-out-central, with the kids gone, but instead we both dove into our work. I worked full days at Nordstrom, then worked on pillows when I came home at night, and Todd had two big installs that meant super long hours for him. We did go to a really fun party on Thursday night, and had margaritas and walked around Ballard last night, and it’s been a really great, really different, sort of week.
I miss the kids a ton, and can’t wait to see them in a few days, when life will get back to normal – or summer normal at least. And before long we’ll start talking about how much we can’t wait to go back to the beach next year.