As a young child, when we visited my father’s family in Guatemala, we would sometimes rent a couple of tiny bungalows at a Pacific seaside resort. There, we would cram our extended family and a few friends into bunks, on sofas, and, I believe I remember, in hammocks for a few days and nights of beach living, Centroamerica- style. I have memories of sprinting on the super-hot volcanic black sand beaches; long days diving and jumping in treacherous surf (my cousins almost drowned there one trip, pulled far out by the undertow, and had to be rescued); homemade feasts of ceviche and seafood soups, tortillas with lime and salt, much of the provisions bought on site from locals who wandered the beach with baskets and buckets of the freshest shrimp and fish, and most of the cooking done by my grandmother; evenings zigzagging with flashlights on the beach, hunting for the huge sand crabs and dodging waves; nights of sandy sheets and sunburn, finally lulled to sleep by the steady tropical wind and pummeling waves.
In the years since, our favorite middle-class resort crumbled into the sea, the consequence of beach erosion. Cousins grew up, started families of their own; my grandmother passed away; we made fewer trips as a family; and it just became harder to gather everyone for the big multi-generational trips to the beach. We’ve had a few smaller family trips, but I’ve been longing for the sprawling family beach vacation.
And so, fast forward to this past week. This was our American pilot of the big family beach trip, an experiment really. It started in February, with research, many emails, phone calls, and some checks. We booked a house in Maine for a week. Then, we didn’t do much about it until basically two days beforehand. Hubby and I packed like crazy. Day of, we made a caravan of sorts with my brother and his family, my mom and grandmom, and we met my aunt and uncle and cousins up there.
This was not a crazy-running-around-almost-drowning-Gallo-beer-and-crab-chasing tropical beach trip. It was more beach-cart-toting-beach-toys-lugging-preschool-kids-chasing beach trip. It was the first time we’ve done this up here. I see it as a sign that we’ve arrived. This is it, sitting in low beach chairs right on the tide line, helping our kids digs holes in the sand, and periodically getting up to fetch another pail of Maine-cold ocean water to make little rivers, and watching the kids squeal with glee and wonder: it doesn’t get any better than this.
Our kids loved the beach, loved rolling in the sand, dumping sand on their heads, digging in sand, squishing their toes in the sand; and they didn’t mind the cold water too much. We loved watching them; and enjoyed the occasional long walk on the beach (we took turns to make that happen).
There were some snags. Grandma is almost ninety, and, we learned the hard way, doesn’t travel well. We had imagined that she’d enjoy sitting on the beach with us, and so we booked a house basically on the water, and we brought a wheelchair. But, aside from a few roller strolls around the block and one trip to the fish-fry, Grandma stayed in the house. She became dehydrated, and then had some issues related to her meds, and twice, we had to call 911 and get her IV fluids in the emergency room. Both times, she bounced back. I’m glad she was able to come with us; I hope she’s glad she came.
It’s hard to be away from an outpatient practice for a whole week. I kept tabs on my work emails during the week; and even called a patient, a dear and very complicated patient, to help out during her inpatient stay. Even so, I know there’s piles of messages and labs and paperwork waiting for me. Monday looms.
Apart from those things, our biggest issues were keeping kids watered and fed, managing diaper rash and temper tantrums, making sure everyone applied enough sunscreen, and figuring out what to eat. Oh, and occasionally, mitigating Maine’s open container laws, with coozies on our Shipyards down on the water. We all shared meal prep, on an informal rotation. On our night, Hubby and I made Spanish garlic shrimp and a Mediterranean salad. The only spat we had the whole week was over grilled eggplant.
And now, we’re home. Babyboy was so excited to go home. He says it with a Southern-drawl: “HO-em. Mommy, I want go HO-em.” We were home by noon today, and despite the gorgeous day, Babyboy and Babygirl were both content to patter around the house and yard, resisting offers of a walk to to feed the ducks. “I want stay HO-em, Mommy.”
The kids will be back to their summer routine on Monday, which, really, is similar to their school year routine. Babyboy is in the Special Ed summer preschool program, and we’re adding private speech therapy, since he can be so hard to understand sometimes. Babygirl is in her little daycare- preschool that she loves. Hubby’s gearing up for his work season, as football practice starts in two weeks. It’ll be all back to normal…
But we’ve already started planning for next year. Same week, same area, different house, figure out a plan for grandma, invite more family. The year after, repeat. Make it a tradition. Make it something special that our kids remember, and then long for, as adults…