The 6-year-old is on Spring Break for two weeks, so we decided to take a couple of days to enjoy the beautiful weather by the beach in Orange County. My parents still live in the area, in the same house I grew up in and spent the better years of my childhood in.
It was a fun, sun-soaked two days filled with splashing in the pool, walks by the ocean, purple-gold sunsets on the pier eating chilled shrimp cocktail and creamy clam chowder. The boys got to spend quality time with their grandparents and cousin and I didn’t have to think of a million ways to entertain them. It was a win-win-win all around.
I once again realized it’s an effort to pack for three children and yourself just to take a couple of days away. I don’t really call it a “vacation” because that would imply relaxation, but more an “excursion.” Sure, you’re in a hotel, but the baby is hoisting himself onto furniture that isn’t childproof, the toddler is picking up the phone and dialing the front desk over and over and screaming HELLO? HELLO! until we give up and just unplug it from the wall and the 6-year-old is talking VERY LOUDLY and throwing himself all over the freshly made bed asking repeatedly if he can eat the chips from the mini bar until I have to yell QUIET! which is sort of an oxymoron, isn’t it?
The pool is really just a test in multi-tasking and seeing how quickly my reflexes can respond as the non-swimming toddler (who has no concept of fear) tries to cannonball into the shallow baby pool and the baby’s cheeks are slowly turning hot pink and he needs sunscreen but I can’t take my eyes off the toddler and the 6-year-old wants me to watch him, look mom, look mom, look what he can do and…and…and…
I remember the days, pre-children, of weekend getaways to Palm Springs with my husband as we sunbathed by the pool ordering citrusy, iced cold margaritas and shared a chaise lounge, tangled up together, drunk off the sun and the love and maybe the tequila and the luxuriousness of it all. Nowhere to be, nobody needing us. I thought I was savoring those moments at the time, but if someone had foreshadowed for me what it would be like three years later, with three children, three wild things to keep track of and fret over and slather sunscreen on and watch out of the corner of my eye, I would have sipped those margaritas more slowly, held my husband’s hand tighter. Being pulled in three (four? five?) directions is both exhausting and wonderful. The chaos is beautiful in its own way, the tending to other souls, fulfilling. But it also makes those rare moments of uninterrupted quiet that much more delicious.
I get nostalgic visiting the area where I grew up as a child, with my own children now. There’s something both exhilarating and melancholy about it. I approach a stretch of beach with my boys and have to take a moment to let the sand run through my bare toes, as if that alone will transport me back in time to my own childhood. The memory is so clear I can smell it in the saltwater, the briny seaweed, the coconut-scented suntan oil rubbed across browned shoulders. I am 12 again, 9 again, 6 again, the age my son is now. I am running freely on the beach, tumbling in crashing waves, my hair thick with sand and foamy seawater. The sun is almost ready to descend behind the ocean, the light is perfect, casting a golden glow on young, unlined skin and I don’t want the day to end.
I don’t want the summer to end.
I don’t want my childhood to end.
I don’t want this life to end.
I look over at my boys and they are antsy and unknowing. They have no idea of my memories here, my memories here, at this strip of beach that represents so much of my youth. I’m not sure why I would expect them to. I’m not sure what I’m looking for or what I’m hoping to find in them.
They are hungry and they want to eat.
I stop and snap a few photos on my phone before joining up with my family, who are all anxious to move on.
The sun does its disappearing act behind the ocean.