this is the year my family reinstated the annual beach vacation.
as the youngest of four, this tradition started before i was old enough to remember it. (maybe even before i was born?) and then, we stopped going before i was old enough to have more than a handful of vivid memories. (or maybe i just have a bad memory?) either way, what i have are a lot of bits and pieces. snapshots of being held in the ocean, jumping waves, shouting OVER OR UNDER? as a big wave approached, "catching a sun tan," my mom dutifully coating my skin with sunscreen at regular intervals, looking for crabs, walking on the big rocks, the way the floors of our beach house always got sandy by the end of the day, hearing "fresh baked dooooughnuts" sang in the mornings, playing card games, shopping at those beach stores with candy and cheap toys. my first memory of writing in a diary, feeling the need to put words on the page before i knew how to spell them, took place at the beach.
thankfully, i have used some of my unemployed free time to scan all my photos so i have these gems to share with you. sometimes my beach memories come from stories i've heard or photos i have (like that one with my mom, who is the real MVP for taking four little kids to the beach for an entire week) and sometimes i remember that exact moment, like where i'm sitting next to my dad and smiling so proudly because i was just so thrilled to be sitting right there next to him.
these beach vacations have a special place in my heart, for two reasons mostly. one, because my family was all together. which, i know that my dad would bring us and pick us up and go back home to work during the week, but most of my beach memories include him. and two, because i love the beach.
i don't remember when or why, but we stopped taking week-long beach vacations. we lived in connecticut and have family in florida, so we kept up with beach days and short trips here and there, but now there have been entire summers that pass where i don't see the ocean and i can't even explain how unfathomable – yet true – that is for me.
we've been talking about picking up our old tradition again, but the details of how and when and where were all too much to nail down. this year, we decided to just go for it. it was only my parents, T and her family, and me who were able to make the trip, but we did it. and we'll do it again next year, and the year after that, and each year we will get better at planning and coordinating and prioritizing.
as much as it felt good to be at the beach again, it also felt good to just be doing the thing we've been talking about for so long.
it felt kind of strange to take a vacation when i'm not really working consistently and my whole life kind of feels like a vacation, in that i'm mostly making it up as i go. but there is a difference between everyday life and vacation. (at least for me, sans kids.) i have a lot of free time and i leave town a lot, but that's not a vacation.
i didn't open my laptop this week. i didn't read. i didn't think about any of the side projects i've been working on. i let myself rest in a way i didn't realize i hadn't been doing.
i listened to a podcast recently that talked about the way swapping out "but" for "and" makes a significant difference in a sentence. a "but" takes a negative turn, while "and" keeps you on the same level. two things, at the same time. the example was actually about rain on a vacation, and it's exactly how i feel about our week at the beach.
we went on vacation and it rained. my mom, T, and i discussed it at lunch one day and we agreed that the rain wasn't the huge disappointment that we were tempted to feel it was. getting completely rained out on our last morning at the beach did feel a bit like our words were being thrown back at us, but i still maintain that it was a good week of vacation. no but's.
we didn't spend all day, every day at the beach, the way we used to do it – the way we all kind of expected it would be, i think. the rain slowed us down, but in ways we didn't realize we needed.
it didn't rain the whole week. we did get some solid beach time, with sunny blue skies, on multiple days. God knew we needed the sunshine too. i can't speak for anyone else, but the rain and the constant 100% rain in the forecast each day helped me appreciate the sunny blue skies all the more. my weather app said rain, but i believed for sunshine. and when the rain not only stayed away, but the sun shone, i felt all the more thankful.
the truth is, God cares about these details, but even more so, He cares about us. He knows what we need. He knows how to give it to us. it's taken a lot of practice for me to see what's in front of me as provision, even if it doesn't look like i thought it would. even if it looks like nothing. even if it looks like rain. it takes a lot of trust to see that what's been given to me is important, that one day i will look back on it and understand that while i may not have chosen it, i am thankful for where it's brought me.
i would not have chosen to start the week sick. i would not have chosen rain. and yet, i am thankful for all the ways this week played out.
we took a lot of photos. a LOT. my dad always rolls his eyes at our photos. he never wants to be in them, leaning out of the frame and making comments like, "you got a photo of me at easter; why do you need another one?" i'm pretty sure he's suggested only taking one photo of him per year. but as i upload all these photos we took, and include some from beach trips from when i was little, i can't help but see the generational parallel. i wonder if luca and jack will grow up and be thankful we took these the way i'm thankful i have those ones from my childhood.
photos, candids or not, carry a memory. choosing to snap a photo, in the moment, is something you're doing now that you will want later. my dad never wants the "now" part, and maybe he doesn't care to ever look back on things either, but i treasure photos for the way they help me remember. whether it's photos from a beach vacation we took when i was too little to hold the memory, or from my visit to charlotte – just last month – that i've already forgotten pieces of, i'm thankful i have something that says, remember this?
i want to remember this beach trip. i want to remember how we picked up this old tradition again, even if we fail to do it next year. i want to remember walking on the beach with my dad that first night, the way he loves that fluorescent yellow shirt from his old job so much that he included it while packing for the week. i want to remember sitting in the sand with luca and jack and building a sandcastle. i want to remember how jack helps me grind my coffee beans, how lee carried all the things, how luca kept wanting to use the boogie board as a surf board. i want to remember how jack sat in his hair, wore his sunglasses, blew his own nose, and preferred to not have his feet touch the sand. i want to remember how luca played in the sand, sat at the water's edge, walked in the "rivers" and caught a fish, and always let the waves move him. i want to remember how peaceful my mom looks when she's sitting on the beach or standing in the ocean, how my dad stayed with us for hours and wasn't ready to go – with socks and sneakers on – after only thirty minutes. i want to remember playing bananagrams with mom and T, sitting on the patio having important conversations, and painting their nails with the nail polish my mom bought to replace the one i bought and immediately dropped and broke. i want to remember the blue skies, how i taught my dad to make coffee in a french press, and walking on the beach with mom and T on our last night.
it was such a good trip. it didn't play out the way i thought it would, but it was exactly everything i needed.