Beach vacation is time for family, renewal

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

July 3, 2014

Blue Mountain Beach

Blue Mountain Beach

Beach vacation is time for family, renewal

As mandated by my membership in Club Memphis, I loaded up the van and drove to the panhandle of Florida for a week this summer. It’s an annual drive that can take anywhere from eight to 11 hours. This year, it was unbearably the latter.

I don’t mind most of the drive too much. For me, the vacation begins in that van. Where the kids used to complain and whine, they now sit still, (mostly) silent and mesmerized by the glow of the screen on their hand-held devices.

With the kids strapped in and unable to move about the cabin, and with my only responsibility, great as it is, to deliver them all safely to the beaches of South Walton County, it frees my mind to wander.

For 11 hours I was able to dwell within my own thoughts. Well, 10 hours. That last hour was spent thinking, “Why is this taking so long?”

As with the start of any road trip, my first thoughts turn to this: these kids are whiling away the hours watching movies on handheld devices. Do they even realize their good fortune to watch “Frozen” again and again as Alabama whisks past? Do they know that I spent hours on the road as a kid — these very same roads — wishing for just such a device?

My sisters and I dreamed of a day in the future — far in the future, the 21st century — when we might be able to watch our favorite television programs as the distance dwindled. Instead, we read books and doodled, stared out the windows and napped. And we argued, which is the one holdover of childhood from the last century to this.

But the focus of our week this summer wasn’t all electronic devices and self-absorption. Once we hit the emerald green waters and sugar white sand of Blue Mountain Beach, we gave ourselves over to relaxation and socialization. Attention turned to family as my sister, her husband and their kids arrived to join us.

A friend once said, “Man should put his feet in the sea at least once a day.” There is something healing about the water, isn’t there? It’s therapeutic, renewing.

We bobbed in those waters as a family out beyond the second sandbar, the current carrying us lazily to the east and the sun dazzling our eyes. The kids asked questions and we answered honestly and openly as our feet grazed the sandy floor below. We spoke of hopes and dreams in a way that we just aren’t able during our day-to-day lives with their schedules and demands.

This is what vacation is all about. This suspension of reality, the suspension of gravity and the time to just float in each other’s company. Those moments are worth the hectic days throughout the rest of the year. Those saltwater conversations are worth every minute of the very long drive.

I’m already looking forward to putting my feet in the sea again. I’m ready for next year and the renewal that can only be had from a long drive, quality family time, Disney films on the go, and the water.

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