Maybe you noticed a dearth of new writing here last week. This is because the Fishers went on a Real Actual Vacation! In 22 years of marriage, the longest family vacation we’ve ever taken was three days, and that involved a yurt, a skunk, a bathroom made of corrugated tin, and another skunk. So a full week in a real house near the honest-t0-goodness ocean before any of the kids move away for good is pretty swanky! I found the place in December, and all this year, I’ve been getting knotted up in tighter and tighter balls of anxiety, so sure it was going to fall through and be terrible in one way or another.
It was magnificent. A nearly perfect week from start to finish. Not only did no one drown, throw up, get burnt to a crisp, get bitten, get lost, or get escorted off any premises, we had no other problems at all. Except one night I thought there was a ghost in my room, but that was my problem. Actually, I threw up once, but that was just a migraine triggered by the unwise choice to eat fried dough with sugar. And also Corrie briefly had fake meningitis, but she got better.
Some people, upon arriving at the beach, instantly become sun-kissed and smashing in their flowy cotton caftans, silver toe rings, and sporty sunglasses, and they know how to work the umbrella and stuff, and they don’t get attacked by their own kites. We, on the other hand, look and act like a bunch of giant weirdos, because that is what we are. But we were all there!
I assumed that, for the privilege of living four blocks from the ocean, we’d have to put up with thumping music, clouds of pot smoke, and drunken morons with firecrackers all night, but no! The house was just beyond the fried pickle-frozen daiquiries-overpriced boogie boards-half price baja jackets-your name on a grain of rice-tarot card-freehand henna-Led Zeppelin tribute band tonight only zone, and our block was remarkably quiet and staid. And the view from our bedroom window was a water tower and church steeple on one side, and on the other, this serene, wild-smelling salt marsh, populated only by egrets and cormorants. Amazing.
Since I’ve somehow missed the last two weeks of What’s for Supper posts, I’ll do one now, although we firmly resolved to cook as little as possible, and we never did get around to cooking live lobsters.
We arrived at the house in the late afternoon, unloaded, dibsed rooms, and headed straight to the beach. Woo hoo!
There is nothing better than the ocean. Just nothing at all. It’s impossible to be unhappy when you’re up to your thighs in frigid, frothing salt water, the breeze is whipping through your hair, the sun is glittering, and the foam really does look like little white horses galloping madly to the shore. Oh boy!
The tide was out and hardly anyone was there. A perfect way to begin.
Sunday, we made our way to St. Patrick church, two blocks away, which has a gorgeously preserved, 105-year-old carved wooden altar and communion rail. The kids have never been to an ad orientem Mass before, so that was cool, as was my little impromptu lecture about common misunderstandings surrounding it and how it ties in with the final scene of The Dawn Treader. They enjoy my lectures so very much!
Then we came home for a quick lunch and then WENT ON A WHALE WATCH. I delivered all the appropriate warnings about how there’s no guarantee we’ll see anything, and it’s just nice to be on a boat. But we came across a bunch of frolicking dolphins before we even left the harbor, and then we saw SO MANY WHALES.
Humpbacks and finbacks, including two mother-and-calf pairs
just swashing around, flipping their tails, blowing sighing rainbow sprays, and rolling over. Extraordinary! We learned that whales don’t breathe involuntarily, so part of their brain is always awake to make sure they keep breathing. So they go into a sort of half-sleep and slowly, dreamily rise and fall in the water. This is what the mother and calf were doing.
I cried like a 44-year-old white lady seeing her first whale.
Not that I’m planning to give birth with the aid of a humpback midwife or anything (I’m not pregnant, also. Sheesh, settle down), I really do understand why people think whales are mystical beings with some special wisdom to impart to humanity. They are so graceful and numinous, and they clearly understand . . . something, anyway. They were both gravely aware of and regally indifferent to our stupid little boat, and they move as if they’re operating in some slightly other reality.
Here’s one especially curious calf. Check out that green glow:
NUMINOUS. I highly recommend Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing and Whale Watching if you’re in the area.
Burgers, chips, broccoli and dip, watermelon
There was a grill in the yard, but it was smelly and weird, so we just cooked inside. We had good long beach day, and the kids discovered riding the waves.
We had a sandy lunch wrested manfully away from the seagulls, who have no respect for a diabetic child’s medicinal pop tarts with unicorns printed on the frosting. Sheesh, sea gulls!
Corrie made the executive decision that Monday was arcade day. You guys, the arcade has not changed one tiny bit in forty years. Skee Ball is still a quarter. I still suck at Skee Ball. I still don’t understand the thing with the sliding platforms that push quarters around. I have yet to whack even a single mole. It was awesome.
I also very much enjoyed graciously handing out stacks of quarters to children who desperately wanted another stack of quarters.
Rotisserie chicken, veggies and hummus
Rotisserie chickens currently cost less than raw chickens, for some reason.
Two of the teenagers bailed out and went home in their fancy pants teenager car before evening, leading to yet another rekajiggering of sleeping arrangements. Although we had three bedrooms with five beds, a sleep-in porch, and three pull-out couches, and an air mattress, Corrie ended up sleeping on a quilt on the floor in our room, and in the morning, she changed her name to “Puppy Stupendous.” I mean. She’s not wrong.
She did not especially want to leave the beach on this day. Her protest took the form of repeating, “Hello. My name is Sandy McGoo” over and over and over and over and over again, all the way home. Then when we got home, she refused to hose off because, HELLO, she is SANDY MCGOO, who is SANDY. Using all my powers of We Are All Having a Happy Vacation, I persuaded her that it was at least as much fun to be Lipstick Lady, who takes showers before applying lipstick. I still can’t believe that worked.
Then we found a touch tank that was $1 a head instead of $6 a head. At least we think it was a touch tank exhibit. Anyway, we touched a lot of things.
We beat the thunderstorms and got in some swim time in the morning. But first we bought some shovels. My goodness, if I had known how much joy could come from being shovel owners, I would have bought them shovels long ago.
We also got a kite. When I was little, you could get just a scrap of plastic with a stick on it and some string, and you would run and toss it up in the air, and it would catch an air current and you could just sit there and watch it swoop around for hours. Now all they have is these complicated trick kites with multiple tethers and flexible joints, and they go up only to immediately hurtle down at your face at top speeds. We gave up pretty quick, because we were there to swim and don’t need that kind of hostility at the beach.
We had dinner at the Clearly Just Someone’s House, But It’s By the Water and They Have Enough Chairs Café. The kids had burgers; Damien and I had lobster rolls. One kid had a falafel wrap, which made me wonder if she had gone vegetarian and I, bad mother, didn’t notice, just like I didn’t notice when one kid got a nose ring; but then I remembered she had a burger for lunch. Kids these days with their falafel.
You’ll notice I don’t actually have a ton of pictures. That’s because I LEFT MY PHONE AT THE HOUSE ON PURPOSE. I am working at being more present in the moment and not having the freaking thing on my person at all times, and it felt pretty good.
There were supposed to be fireworks on the beach, but most of the kids were too wiped out, so Damien, Lena, and I headed out, and waited a pretty long time in the surprising August cold before realizing there were no fireworks. I was so relieved. Even though they didn’t want to go, I felt so guilty about seeing fireworks without them. We did go get a cocktail, though, and I didn’t feel guilty about that at all.
Moe got a video of the storm gathering power:
Hot dogs for kids, sandwiches for grown-ups
Beach in the morning, with some clambering around on the rocks and tide pools before the tide came in. Some promises involving shell bits and hot glue were made. Ice cream was consumed. Then the kids went home for hot dogs while we headed out for something other than hot dogs.
We walked for kind of a long time looking for the perfect restaurant, and finally settled on a place that was made by assholes for assholes. It was basically La Grunta, except with lobster instead of deer. After a bunch of assholes wearing leis and toe rings cut us in line for the Hospitality Hut, we overheard two assholes saying it would be a half hour wait, and that wasn’t even for the asshole deck. So we got the hell out of there and went to a little hole run by Lebanese people who just wanted to make you a sandwich without any bullshit. We got two sandwiches to go and gobbled them up by the water.
We could have gotten closer to the water, but I felt a strong need for a seat with a back on it.
Only a few kids still wanted to swim by this point, as we had been in or on the water every day for the last six days. I wanted to, but not as much as I wanted to complain about my sore neck and stress out about what we had done to the rug; so Damien took some kids to the beach and I went to lie down while the other kids packed and vacuumed. Apparently Benny buried Corrie in the sand up to her neck and then ran away. No jury on earth would convict.
Then they came home and de-sanded one last time, I dragged seaweed out of the drain one last time, and then I took the little girls to the playground one last time, which was a leetle bit further away than we remembered. Benny was pretty exhausted and melty on the walk home, and she wanted some help for the last few blocks. So Corrie got behind her and pushed.
Saturday morning we checked out, and then made one last pilgrimage to Ocean Boulevard to eat fried dough and purchase the long-promised souvenirs. This is a good technique if you are feeling a little blue about vacation being over. By the time all the kids have found something they like, everyone will be thoroughly sick and tired of that town and you will be overjoyed to leave.
I bought myself an artificially-colored capiz shell wind chime made in Indonesia for white ladies who cry about whales, because I’m on vacation, dammit, and that’s what I wanted.
And that’s how the stupids went on vacation!