You know what I like about vacation? The jittery feeling I get when I feel like I should be doing something, but when I look around I realize that all I really need to do is sit my rear end in that deck chair and read. It’s that brief moment of stumped awkwardness before I start to relax, and, like that moment a roller coaster car pauses at the crest of the hill before starting its exhilarating free-for-all descent, it is awesome.
I was sitting on the deck of our rented condo one afternoon, drinking a Corona (a beer I think I have only accepted happily on three occasions: a) on vacation, any vacation, any summer, b) while camping in Key West during my spring break senior year, where I was dirt poor and Corona meant living large, and c) any Jimmy Buffett show I’ve attended at any point in my 20s–I’d like to admit here that I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to these shows, but alas, I went by choice and tailgated with the best of them. Shhh. Don’t tell anybody). As I drank this beer, reclining in my (well, for the week, anyway) Adirondack rocker, I could smell the wonderful saltiness of an ocean breeze blowing through my wildly not-sexy beachy hair (why do all the magazines think salt-soaked hair is soooo gorgeous?! Have they seen my mop?), and I was very aware: my kids were sleeping inside, the sun was shining, I was outside, and I had nothing to do.
I got to sit out on a deck and listen to the seagulls and not worry about laundry and dishes and scrubbing the toilet.
I got to wear my swimsuit, around, all day long. Take that, proper etiquette!
I felt like doing a jig on that deck. I didn’t have to cook, because we’d go out or order in (don’t get me wrong: I love to cook. I just don’t love to have to cook, if you’re picking up what I’m stepping in). The only laundry I had to wash was some sandy towels and the occasional pee-soaked swimsuit (ala the 15-month-old, of course. Swim diapers are a scam, I tell you. I think they exist just to pretend they’re soaking up our children’s waste, when in fact they’re just for show. Leaky, urine-y, wet-your-clothes show). I could take a run in the morning if I felt like it, and encounter lizards and boats and bridges over lakes instead of subdivisions and exhaust-spewing cars and construction sites.
Quinn could eat sand before I caught her and I’d just tell myself it’s good for digestion.
Saoirse could ask for ice cream on the beach before dinner, and I’d say go ahead, have some. And while we’re at it, you can stay up past your bedtime to go to a bonfire or walk along the water or watch some baseball on TV.
It’s vacation. I wasn’t coordinating schedules with David to see who’s going to the preschool orientation, nor cleaning cat vomit out of a playroom rug, nor feeling the absolute need to brew a fresh pot of coffee at 2 p.m. because I needed the energy to get through the afternoon. David and I were chatting rooftop, leaning against the balcony, staring out over the ocean. We’re digging in the sand with shovels and pails, having more fun than our 3-year-old. We’re debating on whether we should go out to eat that night or just relax and take a walk to the bay.
I keep thinking about Little Women, which I read over and over as a kid. Didn’t they send Beth, who was sick, to live by the seaside? I remember this idea popping up in a lot of that Victorian-type literature I favored when I was an awkward pre-teen. People who were ailing, or needed some rejuvenation, went to live by the sea, because the air was thought to have restorative properties (or, if you’re not into the Victorian lit and would prefer to have a song running through your head for the next hour, cue Bobby Darin).
I get it. I always have. I took a sip from the bottle and looked out over the ocean before returning to my book (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which a friend recommended. Totally not a beach read, but absolutely fascinating). I knew I was going to have a mess of clothes to wash when we got home. And I’d probably have to go out to the grocery store as soon as we pulled into the driveway because we’d be out of milk and orange juice for the next day. But at that moment, I watched a kite from the beach bounce around on the breeze, and I didn’t care about any chores waiting for me at home.
I was on vacation, baby. And I had to go find some more limes.