Monday, September 4, 2017


Every August we pack up our lives and head East. Destination: our annual beach vacation. Four families jammed into one house of controlled chaos. Well, at least it was when our children were smaller. Nowadays, the only small fries are our niece’s children we watch with amusement. We know what it was like to get sand out of diapers and run them until they have to go to bed. Even more entertaining is seeing teenagers eat. Where do they put all that food?!

Packing for the beach is a feat like no other. The house we stay in overlooks the ocean and has 7 beds, a beautiful kitchen, dining room and living room furniture, a washer and dryer, televisions... and little else.  This means we must pack to live a full life in this sparsely appointed abode.  

We take our favorite egg pan, spatula and a good knife. We are fairly certain they must fear someone attempting suicide as the knives they provide cannot cut a juicy, fat, gorgeously red tomato the size of a small child’s head, let alone the butter from the fridge (which we had to bring, too).

We bring towels, bed linens - usually the right size for the beds we stay in (though we’ve had some snafus), laundry detergent, softener sheets, paper towels, napkins, peanut butter and jelly, favorite cereals, cleaning products....the list goes on and on. Good Lord, don’t forget the boogie boards! They actually run you a little bit of pocket change and the whining that ensues if they cannot have one is simply NOT worth it.

Before leaving we make our annual tour of the fabulous Big Box for the basics. We bring paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper, Mema’s favorite sodas, mayo AND Miracle Whip (because, well, because), mustard, ketchup, relish, tissues, candy, crackers, bread, baked beans, pasta, salt, pepper, olive oil...oy vey. We are buying for LIFE, people!

The van actually groans as it sees us coming with this cartload. It sits low when we pull out of our driveway. Low enough, in fact, that we cannot back in at the beach house because our tow hitch will drag until we unload. The neighbors got quite a show this year.

Personal care items are an island unto themselves. When I was younger, I packed lip gloss and mascara. Now it takes a small army of products to keep my skin smooth, three products to gloss my unruly hair, brushes, retainers, oils, potions, is a bag full of wishes. Wishes that my hair was not frizzy.  Wishes that my skin sparkled when I wake, as it used to. Wishes that I could see without contacts.

Never a wish to go back in time, though. I’ve learned too many important things and I know for sure, Mr. Shaw was right.  Youth is wasted on the young.

We have a pattern that works well, as we don’t want to forget that one thing. Our motto? If we forget it we don’t need it. On the other hand, we also subscribe to, “If we forget it we can buy it.”  We just pride ourselves in not needing the latter.  It is easier to have a huge checklist in the kitchen the two weeks preceding the trip to write things down as a light bulb goes on. Our ten-year-old fills in the list with her fresh memory, too. Thank God! I don’t have to remember everything anymore.

Three of the last twelve summers, someone ended up at the emergency room. The record is held by our nephew who blew out his knee within thirty minutes of arriving, while skim boarding the edge of the tide. One year my mother-in-law was simply getting in the car and her finger met the sharp-ish edge of the side view mirror. My husband cut his foot bolting after our (then) two-year-old as she ran for the beach house - and didn’t stop. She could not hear us and was headed for the road. He bounded up the steps and gashed his foot on a jutting splinter of ancient wood. That was a lot of blood and tears...hers, not his. She felt bad Daddy got a boo-boo chasing her.

He almost went one year after slashing his foot on the rocks at the jetty. Lucky for him, his sister and I had hydrogen peroxide and a toothbrush to examine the depth of the wound in a Nurse Ratchett-like fashion. Hey, to our credit, we also brought him a beer before excavating. My daughter said he looked like a wolf when he bared his teeth like that. Oops.

We still hear about that one.

We also bring a very large plastic bin with first aid items stuffed to the hilt. Yes, including a toothbrush.

When the (mostly) blissful week of adventures is over, we pack up twenty-five percent of what we brought and travel home. This is when I think the term beachification came into being.

I wondered, as we brought three outfits apiece, food and the basic necessities (yes, my lotions and potions DO count), what exactly was it we need that we left back at the house. I mean, it is full of serving dishes, more clothes, toiletries, tchotchkes, frozen foods, more toys and just more than we could ever really need. This is aside from the fact that the house is a bit too big for our family of three. We love it when we have company come and I bemoan it every time I clean.

We worked diligently to pare down over the last few years. Beachification. This paring down to the basics has a very cleansing effect on the mind. We shop the house market for something smaller. I know, this directly conflicts with the “bigger, badder, better” mindset today. Yet, we have a fabulous life when not catering to an albatross that beckons us to clean and clean and clean. We know that living experiences are what make life grand. Especially experiences with people we love.

Beachification...a beautiful thing I seek every day.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Poetry in Pictures


Photo by Carol Ann Thomas

Frozen in time are the memories,
Laughter, sharing of thoughts, conversation,
Solutions to the wonders and trials of life.

Sweet friend, how I long for this communion,
Sharing time seated side by side,
The twinning of our minds over tea.

To bask in the summer sun - a memory,
Cherished pictures of grace-filled moments,
Together, united, co-conspirators.

Today, all is frozen over, no thaw in sight.
I shall let you rest awhile,
Under the blanket, restore yourself.

Until Spring comes anew - like hope.