I wasn’t going to join in the linkup this week, but Kathy’s entry inspired me. I had the most fabulous childhood! I was the eldest child, with a brother 4 years younger. We always lived on one farm or another with my dad as the farm manager plus another job as a long-haul truck driver or a college professor. He now owns the farm he grew up on (well, sorta – his ex-second wife still lives on the property, too) and he still teaches college classes. He’s in his seventies and does more work in a day than most people do in a week. My Mom was a business school grad when she met Dad, and worked full-time at a hospital until my brother was born. A few years later she went back to work as an office manager. She retired at some point, but never stopped telling people what to do. It’s kinda her thing, and since she’s 75 years old and weighs less than either of my dogs she can get away with it!
My maternal grandmother passed away at age ninety-nine recently, and I took a chance and traveled with Mom and my step-dad, Greg to North Carolina for the funeral. I saw family members I hadn’t seen in nineteen years. I got to spend time with my cousin Michelle and her husband and two sons. She also has one brother (older) and our families used to vacation together in our fancy (for that time) RVs at a campground right on the beach at Myrtle Beach, SC. My little brother had a bell on his tricycle, so I didn’t have to worry about him at all – the grown-ups listened for the bell!
Michelle was older than me, and I always thought she was much more mature and sophisticated. Now that I have everyone’s exact birth-dates it turns out she’s only a couple of months older than my husband!! I wish I had pictures to share, but I suspect they are creating mildew topiaries in Dad’s second wife’s basement. He was all about having everything developed as slides, so there are almost no pictures of me until junior high. There are school pictures and some my grandmother took, but she had Parkinson’s Disease, which doesn’t make for great photography.
Anyway, I very casually mentioned the campground to Michelle, because I wasn’t sure she’d remember it as fondly as I did. To me it was like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – but just that fabulous musical scene – no Oompha-Loompas. But she DID remember the same things I did! Renting a paddle-boat and paddling right up to our own campsites to say Hi and then paddling around and around until our legs were all wobbly. Running into the water fully clothed as soon as we got there in celebration. Waves so massive they’d turn over four adults in a life-raft. Squirrels so tame they’d eat out of your hand. And trudging back down the beach after you’d ridden in on a wave so you didn’t have to hike a half-mile back after several waves.
I remember crawling into bed at night, brown as a biscuit and exhausted from fighting the waves all day. It was wonderful to be a kid back then!
Sadly, we won’t be going to the beach this summer. But I have wonderful memories of the few vacations we were able to take when the boys were younger. I used to be much “craftier”, and made a couple of super-cute beach vacation mementos that still have a place of honor on our bookshelves. I am pretty sure both of these ideas are straight out of issues of Family Fun from fifteen years or so ago.
Plaster of Paris Footprints
Here are footprints from both boys at age six. Aaron’s, although seven years older, is much lighter because his was made at Panama City Beach, and evidently the sand there is (or was) much whiter than the sand at Gulf Shores, where John’s was made. The process is super-simple: Buy a packet (or a tub if you’re doing multiple kids) of Plaster of Paris at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. Mix it up with a little less water than directed. Pour into a nice deep footprint your kiddo has made in slightly moist (not wet) sand. Let dry while you play in the sand. Very carefully lift out and let dry overnight before you brush sand away from the toes. We tried doing hands, but the fingers always broke 🙁
These are Beach Preserves from approximately thirteen years ago. Notice how the water is still clear and the shells still have their color. Super-cool, right? If you are staying in a beach house or condo you can make these while you’re there. Otherwise you’ll have to haul saltwater and sand home to do it. Use pint jars. Fill about 1/4 full with sand, add some saltwater, and arrange shells. Gently add saltwater until it almost reaches the neck of the jar. Wipe the neck dry, attach clean, dry lid and ring, and submerge in boiling water for ten minutes. Let cool and you can do other cool things like smear the lid and ring with Elmer’s glue and sprinkle with sand, and wrap the neck with twine onto which you’ve threaded a shell with the year marked in Sharpie (mine fell off at some point). Happy crafting!
If you haven’t read part one, go here to meet everyone first, then come back. We’ll wait.
I ducked into Bev’s, not surprised to see nearly every seat taken and a half dozen people in line at the carry-out window. Michael waved from the back corner, and I reached the table just as the teenager waiting tables put a glass of sweet tea in front of him. “Oh, could I have one of those, too? And whatever the soup and sandwich is today?” “Sure thing, I’ll be right back.” I leaned over to give Michael a kiss and sank into the seat across from him. You were up awfully late last night – is everything OK?” I asked. “Yeah, I just wanted to polish up that one song a little more before I called it done. As of three this morning the album is finished.” He ran a hand through his graying dark hair and I saw the shadows under his eyes. The band’s first album had been more successful than anyone had anticipated, so their follow-up effort had all the guys stressed out, worried about living up to everyone’s expectations. “Well, Lisa and Pooka should be here in a couple of hours, and she’ll have plenty of stories from the book tour to keep your mind off the album. Did I tell you she wants to look at the house next door to Angelia?” “You mentioned she was thinking about looking for a house around here, but isn’t there anything better for sale than that place?” Michael cringed. “I’d hate to think how much it would cost to fix it up. It’s sat empty way too long. It was already starting to look shabby when we moved here and whoever owns it hasn’t touched it since then as far as I can tell.” I shrugged and turned my attention to the Cuban sandwich and black bean soup. Lisa had always had a good eye, so I was willing to believe there were merits to the old dilapidated house the rest of us couldn’t see. “Maybe it’s just the convenience of having a dog groomer living next door. Did you see the picture she emailed me of that weird cut Pooka ended up with in Dallas?” Michael nodded and chuckled around a mouthful of sandwich. Pooka, Lisa’s Schnauzer, traveled with her on her book tours, so he’d gotten trimmed wherever they happened to be when he started to look shaggy. I loved my low-maintenance lab even more when I saw the odd, asymmetric cut he’d gotten in a fancy doggie spa in Dallas. Hopefully Pooka’d grown out enough now that Angelia would be able to fix him while they were in town. Angelia is an artist, one of several in town. Her most well-known pieces are hand-painted furniture, and a spread a few months ago in Southern Living featuring one of her credenzas had gotten her more orders than she’d be able to fill before the end of the year. She’d worked as a dog groomer to pay the bills when she first started out, and since we didn’t have a groomer in town several locals bribed her shamelessly to trim their dogs so they wouldn’t have to drive an hour each way to the nearest shop. Rumor had it that Beverly had to cough up a red velvet cake AND a batch of lemon ricotta cookies last time her Yorkies got groomed. Luckily, Angelia is a big fan of Lisa’s books, and was willing to pretty-up Pooka in exchange for an opportunity to have Lisa all to herself for a little while. After lunch Michael and I dropped by the little gourmet grocery on the way home to pick up a few things for the weekend. Michael and Leo, the proprietor, chatted about music while I gathered a few things and wandered over to the tiny bakery section. “Try the pineapple muffins! It’s a new recipe she’s trying out- got a crunchy topping.” Leo called from the other side of the store. His slight Italian accent was as charming as ever. With his olive skin, dark eyes, and easy smile he’d always looked like Antonio Bandaras’s older brother to me, which made grocery shopping a treat. I took a dozen muffins, all that were left. My boys eat like starved things every meal, and I wanted to make sure there were a few left for breakfast in the morning. We got home just as Lisa pulled up in front of the house. Pooka’s snout was out the window and his whole rear end was wagging and I wondered how he was up high enough for me to see that much of him. Then as I walked around the car I saw he was sitting on someone’s lap in the passenger seat. He opened the door, set Pooka on the ground, and smiled a big, goofy grin I couldn’t help but return. “Hi, I’m Ed. I hope you don’t mind Lisa bringing me along. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” I looked across the roof of the sports car at Lisa, who was trying not to smile, but the edges of her mouth couldn’t help but turn up and her eyes were twinkling. Oh, my.