home by the sea

I should be packing a bag tonight. I should be getting on a plane tomorrow. My fragile and shrinking little family planned a vacation together this summer for the first time in 15 years. I should heading home to my Mom’s to pack up the car and head to our favorite house just down the road on the Outer Banks. Kitty Hawk, to be precise. 4.5 mile post. On the other side of the pavement from the beach, but the house across the way washed out to sea in a hurricane (Gordon? Bertha? Fran?) years ago, so we have a clear view of the water from the front deck. We always had a clear view from the crow’s nest on the roof.

It was going to be a week of quiet relaxing together. Of sunrise breakfasts wrapped in blankets on the porch. Of mornings picking a sun-dried suit off the railing and pulling it onto my ever-blackening body to spend the day wearing as little as possible and absolutely nothing on my feet. Of afternoons spent reading and drinking cheap beer in the sun, sleeping face down in the warm, stoney sand, and wearing myself out in the rough surf. Of long walks hunting for shells and sea glass at sunset. Of sunset swims and moonlight skinny dips. Of showering outside in the rustic, wooden shower stall and tripping up the back stairs wrapped only in a towel. Of sitting at the picnic table in the kitchen picking bushels of crabs for hours. Of quiet evenings silently working puzzles and playing cribbage with Mom. Of evenings at the cheesy pirate-themed miniature golf course with brother and sister. And margaritas and gin and tonics. And fried seafood dinners complete with hushpuppies. Of a day trip to Ocracoke Island. And a night at “The Lost Colony.” Of tucking into bed and falling asleep listening to the rhythmic pounding of the surf outside my window. Of the smell of the fresh, salt-sea air. Of endless hours of just being quiet together. Of endless hours of talking and laughing ourselves silly. Of inside jokes that would forever put their stamp on the week. Of family.

I am a beach girl. I was raised up throwing chicken necks into the waves to catch crabs for dinner, brown as a berry and barefoot with little more than a bathing suit covering the bottom I let hang out of the hem of a WRV or 17th Street Surf Shop t-shirt. I may be a gypsy, may move hither and yon to cities and mountains, but the salt water is in my blood. The ocean is a part of me, and it is where I go to recharge my soul. The same holds true for my kin, and so to have both of them together is the ultimate luxury — and just what I needed this summer. Needed to take long walks alone or with my sister and stuff myself full with fresh ocean catch or pancakes with mom and laugh at old episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and new episodes of “Archer” with brother and just generally let the four of us be the best of who we are together in our favorite place. It would have made us all better people.

We’re probably idiots to cancel, but we have good reasons for not going. Mom isn’t well, and we don’t need her to push herself. She couldn’t enjoy it as she’s currently feeling. All of us are taxed by demands our schedules put on our lives. The real world encroached weeks ago to make escape impossible. It’s for the best, really. We can shove it all down and muddle through for twelve more months. It will make the getaway all the sweeter next summer. Please, dear God, let us all still be there and let it happen for us next summer. I know it’s a risk we’re taking to expect nothing to change in a year’s time, but I’m banking on it.


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