Because I Said So column for The Commercial Appeal
June 7, 2012
I’ll tell you how much longer we have. We have about 500 more words to go.
That’s right, it’s time for our annual family beach trip. It’s the one-year anniversary of finding out how well this family fits into a minivan loaded with beach toys, snacks, DVDs, CDs and a few clothes. Our destination this year is Grayton Beach with its eclectic shops, laid-back environment, funky cafes and, of course, the white sands of the Florida Panhandle.
I sit and write this now on the front porch of Grayt Coffee House with my daughter, Somerset, and her friend, Meredith. It’s morning of the first day, and the sun is filtered through the leaves of gnarled water oaks, a musician from Atlanta and his family just introduced themselves and their dog, Annabelle, and joggers pass by at a leisurely vacation pace.
And I think I may never leave.
Instead of packing up in a week to find out how much sand we can squeeze into the van with all of our other belongings, would it be unreasonable for me to just stay on this porch and wave at the people passing by as though I were the business’ mascot, or a sunburned and sand-flecked cigar store Indian?
Do my kids expect more of me?
They expect me to make enough money during the year for this trip, though they have no concept of what a vacation like this costs. They expect me to drive them 980 miles round-trip, though they have no idea what it costs me mentally to have them whining and pleading for stops behind me, and asking me that same question again and again (only 220 more words to go now). It’s a week in which they expect me to build a sandcastle, throw them in the surf, slather them in sunscreen and grill supper.
Nobody expects me to stay on this porch for the rest of the week. Or the rest of the summer. Or, if it’s not a problem, the rest of 2012.
Do they really expect any more from me?
My concern is that they may all want to join me on this porch where I sit beneath a handmade metal wind chime with the word “serenity” stamped into it. They and their snacks and their toys and their DVDS and sandy beach towels.
As we get older and have more and more kids, the agenda for vacations is filled less with what we want to do and more of what we have to do. But we also find that what we have to do while away is more fun and, in some ways, more meaningful than what fills the responsible days at home.
Planning and building that castle, jumping in the waves with my youngest on my back, pointing out constellations in the pitch black night and spending a morning lounging on the front porch of a sleepy little coffee shop with a few kids is what they expect and, it turns out, just what I expect as well.
This porch is the perfect place to start a vacation. We’re here, kids.