Sunday, August 19, 2012

On vacation

Sand between your toes. It's such a luxury.

“We need one of these,” I say to the sea, wishing I could carry it home with the sand and shells in my pocket.

The first time I came to this coastal town in Maine with my own personal tour guide I was equal parts jealous and smitten. He was born in the summer, and returns each year around that time to relive his youth and reconnect with the sea.

“It must have been so difficult growing up here,” I guestured at the sight of the rocky shoreline. “The beach – a once-annual summertime sojourn for me and my family – was year-round bike ride away for you and yours.”

My husband just smirked, and shrugged his shoulders. Youthful summers mowing lawns and painting oceanfront homes has colored his judgement.

“It's not the same when you live here,” was his reply, though I could tell the answer was more to convince himself of the value of his departure.

We were on vacation after all.

Each year since that first year, we've come here as a family. We put aside the work and the worry and we revisit this place, his childhood home; my dream home. But this is the first year we've arrived in waves: My daughter first, with her grandmother; my husband and son next for a guys-only trip; the dog and myself, last, after the completion of a job.

How things change.

For three weeks our kids have been visiting the library, taking swim lessons, collecting blueberries for breakfast, breading themselves on the sandy beaches and rinsing off in the breaking waves with their grandmother as if this place was home.

Arm over arm they practice their strokes in the pool. The Champ follows in his sister's path of not wanting to go under water, vexing his youthful teachers.

“I do it at home in my pool, but I didn't bring my pool with me,” he says for the laugh.

“I didn't bring mine either,” says the instructor. “It wouldn't fit in my backpack.”

If only such things were possible. It's not the first time the notion of lugging the sea home in our luggage has wormed its way into my wishful thoughts.

It's just better when one of the smalls says it out loud.

These things haven't changed. Long days, filled with sun and ocean air. Family walks on the beach start early and include balancing coffee and muffins against the strain of the dog bearing down on her leash.

The kids smell of sea and sunscreen as they chase the gulls like it was their job. They don't even mind the cold waves or the grainy pastries they collect in pay.
When a woman with a big-old yellow lab asks me how he likes the beach, I say “She's not a fan of the water yet.” “Ah but he likes the sand.”

My face reddens when I realize she's talking about The Champ as he tries to build a sandcastle a few feet from the encroaching tide.

I will blame the sun, whose kinship with the surf fogs minds and whets appetites.

The combination makes the us almost hungry enough to eat the occasional spiny fish the ocean turns inside out and tosses out of its tide each morning.


The dog, however, would happily partake if allowed.

“Skunk would smell better,” we tell her as we drag her away from the putrid prize.

It doesn't matter that it's not true.

We are on vacation.

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