Despite taking every precaution, I can’t seem to get the sand out of my pants. I rinsed in the sand shower before setting foot in the beach house. I left my flip-flops on the screened porch. I sealed my camera in a zip lock baggie. I kept my sea glass and shells in a bucket out on the deck. But everywhere I turn, I find those pesky little grains of silica.
As I unpack my suitcase and shake the sand out of my belongings, I simultaneously feel both melancholy about the impending end of summer and relief that my yearly family beach vacation is finally over.
My elephant skin, straw-like hair and wobbly gut signal the need for a break from the sun, saltwater and afternoon beers. But underlying all those weathered over-abundant body tissues lies a soul in need of some solitude.
Sure, beach vacations are fantastic and my love for my extended family is undisputed, but lock me in a house with Mother Theresa and by day 14, I’m totally fed up and complaining about her using my shampoo. Now, replace Mother Theresa with a large, diverse family with a long, complicated history, and around day 10, I’m beginning to lose my mind.
Every year we pack our extended family of 11 into our 1970s beach cottage in the Outer Banks that sleeps 10 uncomfortably. Like one of those bad reality shows, it all starts with a chaotic dash for the good beds. Then the suitcases explode, turning our otherwise tidy old cottage into a veritable landfill. Previously spartan countertops are heaped with soda cans, chips, sunglasses, lotion, shells, Hot Wheels, cameras, wallets, coffee cake, peanuts, and sticky spots from spilled daiquiri mix.
The cast of our reality show includes a ditzy grandmother affectionately called “Maz that Spaz.” There’s my brother, the abrasive jet pilot, and his attractive Canadian wife, who have raised a slim family of A-personalities who aggressively and successfully fight for whatever life has to offer. Then there’s my husband and I who, a bit soft and squishy literally and figuratively, raised our kids to be nothing more than B-minus personalities who appreciate eccentricities and accept physical mediocrity.
Don’t forget the six cousins, including three hormonal teenagers who alternatively scream, whine and grunt; an anxious “tween” with unreasonable fear of sharks, boys and germs; an over-active 5th grader whose developmental challenges have bestowed upon him the magical ability to recite every line of every movie he has ever seen; and one goofy 10-year-old whose quest for attention knows no bounds.
Add to all that my cantankerous father and his second wife who retired to a home only 12 blocks away from our beach cottage, and a myriad of other odd relatives who drop in to visit us during our vacation, and you’ve got a drama more akin to “The Perfect Storm” than “Beaches.”
Despite it all, we subject ourselves to this madness every summer. Each year we look forward to it, and each year we can’t wait for it to end. Like the sand in our pants, we infiltrate each other’s lives. And no matter how irritating it can be, we keep coming back for more.