We were not a vacationing family, although we did, on occasion, venture out in the over-packed Vista Cruiser from time to time, a cooler full of pimento cheese and lunch meat, loaves of bread squashed between bickering children. There were seven of us crammed into a car designed for six, but this was before the days of mandatory seat belts. It seems impossible to me now that a couple of us rattled around in the very back—the cargo space for luggage and whatnot.
We went to Jekyll Island, one of Georgia’s sea islands, where the waves were puny and nearby pulp mills freighted the air with their special perfume. But the sun was hot, there were sea turtles and the abandoned mansions left by Rockafellers, the Cranes, the Vanderbilts and the Morgans. When we tired of the beach we explored the old cottages—cottages by millionaires’ standards—where we found small openings to crawl through. We spent happy hours running through the gilded halls with the peeling wallpaper, and no one noticed and we didn’t care anyway.
But the beach, with the heat and the sand fleas, and the blinding sun—the beach of my youth with the mandatory requirement to get as brown as you can as quick as you can—that beach was never my favorite. There was no moderation to that kind of beach vacation, and no such thing as sun screen. If you weren’t shivering by early evening with sun poisoning, then you weren’t doing it right.
Thus, my aversion.
But the mature adult beach trip. Now that is something else again. It involves big hats, and 50+ sunscreen and possibly a caftan or two. It involves lots of books to be read, read not on the beach but on the balcony overlooking it. There are bags of organic coffee in the tote bag, and special cheeses and artisanal breads, and a list of fresh fruits to pick up at road side stands along the way.
There is an unfinished knitting project along for the ride, just in case boredom sets in. A laptop and camera. Candles for the balcony, a life-planning journal that will remain untouched, even though the thought is, all that fresh air and ocean breeze and roaring surf will bring clarity and inspiration.
All those things just make one sleepy.
Which is to say that a beach vacation can be restorative.
That is why I decided at the last minute to find something on a beach, somewhere, even though it is summer and hot and I hate the heat. But I have a big hat. I have books, and all the items mentioned above.
I am gathering up all my beach gear even as I write this, and trust me, it is pretty sad as beach gear goes. I picked up two beach towels at the grocery. I scrounged around for some shorts and found a couple of tee shirts that don’t have holes in them. Flip-flops. Swimsuit. Something to wear to dinner. And that, dear readers, is just about it.
I may make some purchases once I am there. I have already planned my big splurge—a sand chair. You know the ones. A lawn chair that, at first glance, looks like a second, because the legs are so very short. Surely mistakes have been made.
But no! They are designed that way, so you can sit almost in the sand, but just above it, and if you take it to the water’s edge, you can sit and feel the tide come in, first your toes, and then your ankles, and when your bottom gets the message, it is time to move the chair.
And I have already decided, I will get a deluxe model—one with a high back so that when I am dozing it can support my head, which will be rolling around like a melon on a pike.
I will be heading out soon and I have to say I am looking forward to it. The long but leisurely drive down south. Peaches at a roadside stand. The imaginary walks on the beach at sunrise. The even more imaginary walks on the beach with the moon over my shoulder. Perhaps the Blue Angels will zoom out over the water as they practice. Perhaps I will finish my knitting project. Perhaps I will sleep late, nap in the afternoon.
Perhaps, but it is not required, I will go into the ocean.