|My sister Amy, me, Allyson|
|Amy, our sister Emily, nephews Charlie and Sam|
|Charlie, nephew Jacob, brother-in-law Paul, Sam|
|Nieces Hillary and Savannah, friend Sarah|
|Charlie and our crazy captain|
Just as I was trying to shrug off my dark mood so that I could enjoy the sunset and the sea spray, Summer of 69 started blaring from the very loud, crackly radio. For a moment, I enjoyed the nostalgia as I always do, but then I started thinking about the words: "Those were the best days of my life." And I thought, "What were the best days of my life?"
You know, I couldn't answer that. I thought back over the obvious choices, like junior high and high school, first kisses, two weddings, two pregnancies, two babies. I thought about graduating college and teaching middle school, and then giving up on that dream. I thought about dear friends who've left a mark on my heart only to pass out of my life. There are beautiful memories, for sure. But when I think back on who I've been at all those moments, I don't ever remember being totally content. I was happy sometimes, but it seems I was always waiting for something, and when that something came, I always wished something was different.
This vacation was no different. First off, I didn't relax much. Because we wanted to save our money for excursions, I cooked each night instead of going out to eat. I didn't mind that because I love cooking, and it was fun working in the kitchen with Allyson and my nephew Sam. But a week's worth of meals required menu planning, shopping, and a lot of cleaning. And speaking of cleaning, I felt compelled to sweep our condo's tile floor a couple of times a day because all that sand was so annoying. (By the last day or so, I finally got smart enough to give up that losing battle.)
My amazing morning quiet times on the beach never materialized because we stayed up past 1 most nights, usually snuggled (crammed) on the pull-out couch over at Emily's place watching movies. That was great fun, and I wouldn't change it. But there was no way I was dragging my butt out of bed early enough to get down to the beach alone.
There was one morning when I did wake before the rest of the house: Allyson, my sister Amy, Ethan, and his friend Bryce. I crept out the sliding door and dragged my chair, Bible, and journal across the street and down onto the cool sand. But just as I settled down to savor the ocean breeze, the sound of the gently pounding surf, and the glint of the sun on the whitecaps, an obnoxious, relentless shouting started up way down the beach. What on earth were those people shouting about at 9 in the morning?
There were about 10 people near me on the beach and in the water, including quite a few small children. The reason for the disturbance dawned on all of us at the same time as we finally discerned the one word being telegraphed down the beach. SHARK! SHARK! SHARK!
Everyone scrambled out of the water and then stood in small groups, scanning the horizon. I laid down my Bible and stood for a better look, straining my eyes for a glimpse of a dorsal fin. All I saw was two young kids, maybe in their teens or early twenties, standing on paddle boards. From the others' chatter, I concluded that they were trying to scare the shark away from the beach.
Several of my neighbors exclaimed over the shark. "That's no two-footer like the other day.... Look at it! It's, six feet at least.... I'm tellin' ya, isn't that exactly where the grandkids were swimming yesterday?"
Frustrated, I scanned the water but saw nothing but the foolhardy kids on their paddle boards... and then the girl falling off her board. I caught my breath sharply, and my stomach lurched. My head whipped from left to right and back again as she struggled back onto the board, on her belly at first, and then onto her knees, and then back on her feet. Where was that shark?
I finally walked up to the group next to me and spoke to the man who'd pronounced the shark a six-footer. "Where exactly did you see the shark? Is it over there?" I asked, pointing at the horizon to our left.
"No," he said, pointing just to the right, at the paddle boarders. "It was right there, right where those kids are."
Chills raised bumps on my arms. The man was pointing about 20 feet from the water's edge, exactly where Allyson and the other kids had been boogie boarding the day before, and not even a third as far out as the teenagers had been swimming.
|Me and Emily... |
We loved to sit where the waves could wash over our legs
"Wow," I said. "Then why are they out there? Those boards would be no protection if a shark decided to attack."
"I don't know," he said. "It's just what they do. They try to push the shark out deeper. Maybe it worked. I don't see any sign of it now."
I was torn between relief and frustration. So much for my morning quiet time. And after all that excitement, I'd missed actually seeing the shark. Sighing heavily, I shouldered my beach bag and chair and trudged back up the hill to go make some breakfast.
Lest I sound too ungrateful, let me say that there were many, many lovely moments throughout our week, and I appreciated them all.
|Allyson, Charlie, and Pikachu on our snow cone excursion|
|Allyson on a ropes course, in the 95-degree heat|
|Just clowning on the parasail boat|
I spent lots of time with Allyson, cooking, playing chess, watching her swim, taking her for snow cones, and even parasailing one morning (my first time, her second). True to pattern, I was a little disappointed in the experience. It was thrilling going up, and the view was spectacular, but I spent most of the time in the air wondering what would happen if that frayed rope snapped. And it was funny when they dipped us up to our armpits when we came back in, but then I had to sit for an hour in wet shorts and drive back in them, too.
Allyson had assured me that we didn't need to wear our bathing suits because only our feet would get wet. I was happy to trust her advice because I was having a terrible reaction to one of the three sunscreens that I'd worn the day before (a photoallergic eruption) and I couldn't bear the thought of putting on more sunscreen. I'm glad we went, especially since Allyson got to ride a second time with another girl whose sister was too afraid to go up. But the experience didn't live up to my overly romantic ideals.
The very best moments didn't happen on an excursion. They were just ordinary moments that could have happened back at home--but usually don't, because we're all too busy.
- After watching Interstellar, Allyson and I talked in bed until our eyes closed. We talked about time and space and God, and about how we agreed with the statement in the movie about love being the one constant in the universe.
- Allyson and I spent way too long in the local Wal-Mart on July 4, buying food for the week and picking out boogie boards. She lamented missing our annual firework tradition (though we did see some fireworks through the car window on the way there and back), but I enjoyed every minute with her.
- After grilling burgers that shrank down to hockey pucks (but still tasted great), we all crowded around a picnic table. Before we could eat, Hillary insisted on holding hands for a family prayer, and then surprised me by volunteering to lead us. She poured out her heart in a very sweet prayer, thanking God for our vacation and her family, and for the sister who annoys her so much but whom she loves so, so much. Savannah said a quick prayer, too, and then Ethan said it was time to eat.
- We played lots of games with Aunt Amy and all of the cousins. Even the teens played Apples to Apples when Amy asked them on her birthday, and they enjoyed it just as much as we did.
|Hillary did both of our makeup|
|Allyson and Sweet Savannah|
I told her how Daddy and his siblings used to do that with chicken legs when they lived on a farm, and how they held a chicken foot up to the kitchen window to scare Nana. Like father, like daughter.
When we got back to the condo, we all crowded around our little table to sing happy birthday to Amy and then eat the coffee cake that Allyson had prepared all on her own that afternoon. At her insistence, I'd made yet another Winn Dixie run to buy some pretty candles, but I hadn't thought to buy matches. So we had to imagine the glow of candlelight.
Take a rest from the fight
Don't try to figure it out...
'Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be...
There's so much of the story
That's still yet to unfold
And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You've just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold onto every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding