By the time our frantic quest to keep Zan’s bladder from exploding led us to a horse ranch in the Bronx (I swear to god), we were about seven hours into our 2007 journey home from Delaware — and I had decreed that I would never again consent to a family roadtrip longer than that required to fetch milk from the local grocery.
But there I go, jumping ahead again. (And since some of you voiced your disappointment that my previous entry wasn’t more substantial, do get comfortable, because there are roughly 2,000 words in your immediate future.)
In July of 2007, we took our maiden voyage to the beach house … and, as over-analytical parents of a pair of toddlers, we put much thought into our plan of attack.
Basically, it boiled down to: Should we leave late in the day Friday, stop halfway and spend the night in a hotel, then drive the rest of the way Saturday morning? Or should we just suck it up, hit the road early Saturday, and tackle the whole thing in one fell swoop?
Well, we loves us a challenge over here at Casa de Scratches, so guess which option we went with?
I scarcely remember most of the 450-or-so miles we covered on our way to Delaware that Saturday (which I would imagine is proof positive of the psychological coping mechanism known as “repression”), but what I do remember is driving through the darkness at about 11 o’clock at night — you know, like, 14 hours after we had set out on that life-sucking pilgrimage — and seeing a sign that said “Welcome to Maryland.”
I am still quite proud of myself for demonstrating the monumental amount of restraint it took to keep from jerking the steering wheel to the left and slamming head on into that awful, awful sign, whose inanimate life I wished to end in a most violent fashion.
You see, Maryland is the state located to Delaware’s immediate south … and need I remind you that we were coming from Boston, a city that, as you may recall, is located to Delaware’s distant north?
About an hour later, after backtracking our way out of Maryland, using The Force to navigate through many Delaware cornfields, and stopping at a fire station to ask for directions, we finally found the house … the grandeur of which, at that moment, was mostly lost on us, both because it was dark out, and because holy freakin’ long-ass drive, Batman!
And that was Day 1 of our inaugural beach-house vacation.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that we didn’t absolutely love being there … because we did … but, as wonderful as that 2007 vacation was, there were a number of factors that, in retrospect, made it far more challenging than our most recent — and, by far, most enjoyable — beach-house vacation.
First and foremost, the kiddos were this young:
Zan was going through some kind of weird phase whereby he, for the entire week, basically wouldn’t speak to or interact with anyone except his similar-in-age cousin … which was an awesome experience for his grandparents, because there’s nothing like shelling out a gazillion dollars in order to spend a week with your grandchildren, two of whom live out of state, and having one of the latter deliberately ignore you from arrival to departure.
Meanwhile, I had assumed I was going to have some fun father/son bonding time during our stay, but I, too, was among those who couldn’t get past the velvet rope behind which Zan placed himself all week.
Actually, that’s not entirely true, now that I think about it; we did have one particularly humorous experience together, which he still recalls and has brought up on his own during both subsequent beach-house vacations.
The coastline of the beach we frequent during our visit can be tricky. The crashing waves and undertow are often ferocious near the shore, but if you time it right and muscle through them, you are rewarded with a calmer, more manageable section of the sea. That same delicate timing is required when you decide to head ashore, because if you time it poorly, you will swim yourself dizzy fighting against an undertow that will laugh in your face and allow you to get not the slightest bit closer to the beach, and you will find yourself unable to avoid being eaten alive by the powerful and violent waves as they powerfully and violently break against the shore in a most powerful and violent manner.
So there I was that first beach day, the undertow laughing loudly and obnoxiously in my face until, finally, I was able to plant my feet long enough to begin trudging ashore. But the undertow wasn’t finished with me. No, not by a long shot. It grabbed my legs and held me in place while its friend the Deadly Death Wave from Hell came barreling up behind me, and when that wave reached me, I apparently was standing right on top of an oceanic bullseye, because it crashed down upon me with a singularly concentrated force and fury like none I’d ever experienced.
In a split second, I was knocked flat, and then held down, by what felt like a big, wet cement truck. And while submerged, I felt like I was in a blender, because the exploding waves and industrial-strength undertow were churning up so much sand that I was pretty sure my flesh would be gone if I didn’t get up quickly.
As if all of this wasn’t disconcerting enough, the wave, when it crashed down upon me, had decided that simply drowning me wasn’t enough, so it hooked its fingers into the waistband of my bathing suit and yanked downward with great enthusiasm … and I would now like the thank the guy who invented feet, because that ingenious 90-degree angle that the feet form with the legs is the only reason my suit wasn’t sucked out to sea.
So now things were more complicated, because if I just sprang up out of the water, the folks on the shore would be treated to a sight that was far more than they had bargained for (or far less, actually, what with the shrinkage and all). My only hope was to remain submerged and endure the aquatic sandblasting long enough to pull my suit back up.
Thankfully, I accomplished that feat, which filled me with a great sense of relief — until I rose out of the surf and was promptly accosted by the Deadly Death Wave from Hell’s twin brother, and if you go back and re-read the previous three paragraphs, you’ll see how that went, bathing-suit dilemma and all.
Finally, I made my way back to dry land, and, a short while later, Zan and I were in the outdoor shower back at the house. I got him out of his suit, and then removed my own, at which point two of these …
… fell out of my trunks and began flopping around on the ground.
You know you got your clock cleaned when you end up with aquatic creatures in your pants and don’t realize it.
I’m not entirely sure who was more freaked out about it: me or him. Me, because, like, how the fuck did I not know I was walking around with a pair of sand crabs in my shorts? Him, because he just saw a pair of sand crabs leap out of his father’s shorts … which, to a 4-year-old, is probably tantamount to that scene in “Alien” where the creature bursts out of that dude’s chest.
Fortunately, it struck us both as quite funny at that moment, and we had a good laugh about it.
So that was my big father/son bonding moment during our inaugural beach-house vacation, the price of which was an ass-kicking at the hands of King Neptune.
As for Jayna, she was still in diapers at that point, and if there’s anything more delightful to deal with at the beach than a 2-year-old wearing a bulging swim diaper saturated with saltwater and urine and packed with a dozen sand-castles’-worth of beach sand that manages to invade every diaper-covered crack and crevice, I’ve yet to experience it.
Oh, and did I mention that pahpiece was still in da house?
Not that she was a master linguist at that point anyway, but still … whatever conversation she may have been capable of engaging in was mostly smothered to death by that day-glo rubber plug.
Throughout the week, Wonder Woman and I shared a room with two children who, at that age, slept in 20-minute intervals, and rose before the sun, and can you say “shitty roommates,” y’all? Sleep deprivation was at an all-time high.
That notwithstanding, we had a complete blast, and when my in-laws asked us at the end of that week if we would be interested in returning the following summer, we were like, “Hell yeah!”
Of course, that was before the drive back to Boston.
Shortly after our departure, we ran into an hours-long delay (something I felt much less annoyed by when we later learned that the cause of the delay was a fatal traffic accident that took the life of a 4-year-old girl, and, my, but it’s good to keep things in perspective, isn’t it?), so, by the time we reached New York, we had been on the road for what felt like days.
“Zan, do you need to use the bathroom?” I asked as we neared the last exit before the George Washington Bridge.
“Are you sure, buddy? Because we’re not going to be able to get to a bathroom for a while if we don’t go now.”
“No, I don’t need to, Daddy.”
“OK, as long as you’re sure.”
Five minutes later, we were in gridlock, creeping ever-so-slowly onto and across the bridge.
“I need to go potty.”
Which brings us back to the beginning of this blog-entry-turned-novel.
Of course, Zan wouldn’t use the bathroom at the horse ranch, because it was in a stable area that was hot and stuffy and inundated with flies and reeked of manure. He also wouldn’t go to the bathroom outside. So, back into the car we climbed, and I then careened through the Bronx like a madman until we found a gas station. Disaster averted. Thank goodness.
And that’s when Jayna, still buckled into her car seat, suddenly vomited all over herself.
It quickly became clear that we would need to come up with a better travel plan if we hoped to ever again set foot in the beach house.
To be continued in Part III … in which I’ll gloss right over 2008 and focus squarely on our 2009 beach-house extravaganza.
[A trilogy! God, I feel like George Lucas … the “original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy-era” Lucas, though … not the ham-handed hack who puked out that second “Star Wars” trilogy and that asstastically awful “Indiana Jones” sequel.]