Our Beach Agenda
Just returned from a long trip to the beach. It is usually a time of reflection, laughs, tears and traditions. Sure we hit the usual family benchmarks of eating in all of our favorite beach restaurants on the Bay, people watching on the boardwalk, playing manic rounds of skeeball, and riding lots of amusement rides. We practiced baseball in the park. We watched all of the Orioles’ games. We watched bad movies on demand. We swam in the rain and saw dolphins enjoy their ocean like we never saw before. We flew a kite and fed the pigeons and ducks. We did a lot of the pastimes that I experienced myself, and at the same locations, as when I was a kid with my own brother.
New Agendas Mixing in with the Old
We passed on mini golf. The kids finally had a generous amount of their own beach money thanks to grandparents, and while we still pay for everything, they finally had freedom in the souvenir stores which unfortunately became a new favorite way to pass time. We played Monopoly once, and I still don’t like board games.
The kids explored their own ideas including taking longs walks without a parent, buying YouTube sensation branded T Shirts reflecting people/groups I have never heard of. Then there was connecting with other tweens and young teens also wearing such branding, I noticed this while waiting in lines while buying ice creams, or popcorn or fries or whatever other poor nutritious beach treat was requested and my daughters along with stranger boys would give each other a mutual hand greeting and giggle. I hate those new expensive shirts especially because I wasn’t ready for boys.
One of our daughters beamed from ear to ear when a “free” hermit crab made her way home because she bought the (large) cage, thanks to her grandparents! The guy selling us the hermit crab told me that he never had someone ask him so many questions. I needed knowledge about life expectancy, feeding instructions, cleaning suggestions, socialization recommendations, etc. And, I scared away the other potential customers. For the 5th year in a row, the Tooth Fairy, should have paid us a beach visit, but she didn’t come because I am the only one who still believes…. And yes, I was the Brody Bunch’s Tooth Fairy, and it was one of the best jobs I have ever had. We used to buy the kids donuts for one junk breakfast, but now, a sibling used her Grandparent money and crossed the main street to bring back donuts for the family, they don’t need our money or our help crossing the street.
Seriously, Not Funny
This trip, things were just different. I had personal reflections in 10 days that I never gleaned therapy. I would learn of several adults in my family with significant illnesses. I would be pushed by my kids and would watch my husband change up our strategy on handling how we respond to challenges. His brilliant ideas came out of nowhere, and I hoped that they would transfer back to the home-front. I would be spoken to in such a firm and loving manner by someone who cares deeply about me in way that hit my core personality and I cried so hard that my daughter hugged me until I calmed down. Apparently my edge that served me well for so long wasn’t serving me so well after all. I look for humor each day, and we did have some funny moments, but our family’s pendulum was way off. Ironically when I was packing up the beach house, I found a joke book that someone brought with us, and it didn’t even help. The best we got were these two situations: my husband took me to Seacrets on Saturday night for dinner. It was a cross between the Baltimore Preakness infield crowd, MTV’s Spring Break coverage (not even sure if MTV still goes on Spring Break) and us. And, a “sweet” man (selling caramel popcorn, no pun intended) told my kids riddles and he asked for a riddle in return. One of my kids shared an unkind riddle. I was mad and made that kid leave. After the joke offender and I spoke about what’s funny and what’s not, he wanted to go back and give a good riddle. The man loved the made up joke and asked if his GRANDMA said it was okay to tell jokes. Then that “sweet” man, gave me snake eyes and my jokester knew that his new joke was not funny and the man got the last word. Karma is a bitch.
The Hamster Wheel versus Nature
While I am usually surrounded by laundry, carpool charts and game brackets for little league and soccer games, I embrace the chaos. During beach week, all of my issues that keep me on the hamster wheel were non-existent, except for the laundry. Instead, I was surrounded by nature. I would find much peace and happiness being on the beach in the rain. Dolphins were eager to perform in the waves, seagulls were beautiful, one even flew across a full moon and paused. The sunrises would shine in beautiful shades of pinks, purples or oranges depending on the morning. And one night, an orange moon filled the horizon. I even saw a baby toad. One kid would quietly wake me up at all hours with a whispering “let’s watch the sunrise” or “you have to see the moon!” During my time outside, I would come to terms with the “stuff” that is really life. And, I would learn to be much more aware.
Timing – We stink at the calendar
We decided two weeks before our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah to go to the beach for 10 days, that’s how we roll. Most of the Bat Mitzvah details, even 5 days out, aren’t nailed down. We didn’t care – well, I did, a little, especially when we learned that one of our venues went out of business days ago. We were in beach mode and that’s what was at the center of our purpose for 10 days. Beach, boardwalk, arcades, rides, waves, dining, baseball, that’s what we signed up for. The beach is a time for reconnecting and growing. My Dad, who phoned it in a lot, had the best jokes, reminded me to update this blog, which I did not, and it was his priority to keep me focused on time with my family at the beach … maybe because my Dad remembers how important time at the beach really is.
There were glimpses of siblings holding hands. Siblings bonding over inside jokes (probably at my expense). We had beach clean up one night where we annually walk and pick up trash left behind by others. Arcade games and rides were the same from when I was a kid, but at today’s prices. We were showered with much gratitude for our money leaving in exchange for pure happiness. As, siblings pushed new limits, some about the struggles of being in a big family and others about just growing up, they would control the balance of being independent or spending time with us. it was a balance that the adults did not control and one that I struggled with. During our first night of eating dinner at the beach house, I lost my mind when everyone didn’t want to sit at the same table, though we were all on the same deck. That’s how I am. The lesson gleaned from that experience appeared to be that everyone checks the seating arrangements with me now, first. So, when I am asked “where should I sit” I answer “on your ass” we have all moved along.
Times Past/Times Present
Nothing really changes at the beach. I kept hearing music from when I was a kid. Music easily brings me back to specific memories or times from my life. Though now, I am with my own family and thinking of times when I was their ages or time before they were born. My favorite night was a date night where 60+ aged rockers performed live and I danced and sang up front for a whole set. I was one of the youngest in the crowd, but the songs just bring me back to a simpler time. A time where white supremacy wasn’t what it is today here in 2017 (let that sink in).
Beach Week Ended, and I Am Ready to Keep Growing
There were hugs, tears and lots of growing. There was personal reflection and lots of sass. Plenty of kid free dates on the bay during lunch. And, daily trips to the supermarket because four growing kids eat like piranhas. I kept looking for the humor, but there wasn’t much on this trip, and that is unusual for us. This was a time of growing, seeing faults in ourselves and in each other, and trying to do better.
Most people go to the beach to relax, drink, get a tan. I seem to have my most reflective experiences at the beach. It was a draining trip, in a good way. Perhaps one of the most symbolic moments was recognizing that the ocean covers a lot of Earth, and our four kids, whenever they were in the ocean, they were all as physically close as could be. We are each other’s home base. The Brody Bunch, we are all growing.