My husband and I were watching a young family frolic on the beach last week. Two of the young kids were covered in sand from nose to toe, diligently creating a sandcastle. Dad was splashing in the water with the older child. Mom was preparing picnic food for the entire family. When lunch was ready, they all gathered on the blanket and enjoyed mom’s homemade sandwiches. It was like a Norman Rockwell picture. Each sandwich was tucked in a plastic container. Juices were chilled from the cooler. She even had plaid napkins! Who has plaid napkins at the beach? Seriously?
My “bad memory alert” button started flashing in my head from our summer vacations with five kids. They ranged in age nine to one. My in-laws owned a home at the Jersey shore so we’d stay there for our long awaited getaway vacation. Our days would start out with fighting over breakfast. Then there would be arguing over who would go in the bathroom first. Next there would be an argument over who took whose juice. Someone ate someone’s last Cheerio. Someone shot a boogie at someone. It just kept getting better and better. After thirty minutes of cheerio smuggling, juice stealing and boogie shooting, I locked myself in the bathroom.
My husband took charge while I cried on the toilet, mopping my eyes with toilet tissue. By the time I came out, everything was packed: fishing rods, sand buckets, toys, trucks, dolls, a high chair, a playpen, cooler, umbrellas, baby walker, sunblock and fifty pounds of more crap in a beach bag. It’s possible I needed PMS pills for the five minute trip to the beach. It felt like four hours. It took us three trips to unload the car. The beach quilt was spread out and within three minutes, it was completely covered in mounds of sand. Little feet walked in every possible direction. Justin, the one year old, was innocent. I only know this because he refused to walk in the sand. He stood like a statue and screamed for someone to get him. Once he was relocated to the sandy blanket, he refused to leave it.
Next the umbrella had to be hoisted from the wagon and get ready to be pounded into the sand to shade our pale bodies from the sun. This only took fifteen minutes and a lot of bad language on my husband’s part. We all clapped for him when it was in place. Next challenge was our new sporty beach pen. “DO NOT let sand get in the playpen,” I warned, as the rails snapped into place. Baby walker was a waste to bring along because Justin would lift his legs like a frog to avoid touching the sand, as he screamed.
Wow! Time goes fast when you go to the beach. We no sooner got our “beach camp” set up and it was lunchtime. By now my hair was blowing in my sweaty face. I should have made sandwiches like Scott suggested, but I thought it would be nice to let each kid place an order. (I must have seen a Rockwell beach picnic photo somewhere). I’d forgotten all of the condiments. No mayo, no butter, no mustard. This did not go over well. I told the kids that fish could smell mayo and mustard on their breath and they’d never catch a fish that way.
Somewhere between complaints of sand in their bread and spilled juice, I nodded off. The Costa Rican coffee wore off. I swore I was in the midst of a heat stroke, to be perfectly honest. We’d been at our beach encampment for approximately thirty minutes when I heard a loud buzzing noise. I thought, “Oh no! Not green flies!” A herd of green flies attacked my legs. No one else’s, just mine. It was like they were having a smorgasbord on my poor, pale legs. I screamed and swatted and ran into the water. My legs don’t normally lift that high, but this was an emergency. I was hoping to drown the big buggers. A huge wave toppled me from the rear as I was searching for flies that might be still lurking on my skin. I hate salt water and tried to get myself upright as I staggered to brace myself for the next wave. My hair covered my face. I was choking up salt water and my language was not very lady, much less mother like.
My husband and the kids found this to be extremely funny. They rolled in the sand laughing. I was furious! If I was a better swimmer, I would have swum out to sea and hitched a ride on a fishing boat. At the very top of my lungs, I yelled, “Pack it up!! We are going home!” And we did. We drove two and a half hours home. Screw this vacation crap. I planned to write Norman Rockwell a letter asking him to please paint a real family on vacation. Then I learned he was no longer alive. It’s probably just as well. An hour on the beach with us would have killed him anyway.