Wow, it’s been more than a month since we left for our vacation. And it feels like we spent more than 17 days in the company of all our lovely people out west.
Our yearly jaunt to the U.S. for July 4th is something we really look forward to. It’s not just that the trip reunites us with loved ones, and lets Bean get to know her extended family better: it’s also a great excuse to eat ice cream daily and go to the beach. Really. The weekend at the Jersey Shore that typically gets folded into our summer vacation is just about the best shot we have at real summer weather most years. And they have fireflies.
The first half of our trip was spent lying low in Pennsylvania. I read six novels and many back-issues of National Geographic. Trev practiced his punting technique and played horseshoes with Jeremy. Naps were had.
During this idyll, the Bean talked up a storm, wore out her aunts and cousins, looked at exotic bugs, and played with dogs. She learned to shake hands, thanks to pal Negus. She went swimming and tried the hammock with Grandmama.
Mostly, she spent her time throwing pillows at Pops. This is, after all, what Pops is for (that, and buying her fabulous watermelon hats). She would hear his voice filtering down from upstairs in the morning, grab the largest pillow she could find, and drag it up the stairs to the bedroom, where she would then fling it at him. He loved it. She loved it. It went on for hours.
The second part of our holiday was spent in New Jersey. We were able to stay at my Grandmother’s house (now my aunt’s house, really) along with what seemed like the entire rest of the family– my brother and Anya, my sisters, my aunts and uncles, two cats and Bella the dog. For two days we also had Auntie Katie with us.
It was hot, sunny (mostly) and summery. At the beach, Bean preferred to run up and down the sand rather than swim– and I don’t really blame her, as during our entire visit, the water was thick with sticky, slimy salps that cooled many of us on staying in the water very long (exceptions: Pops and cousin Bill, AKA “Longboard Billy”).
When we grown persons did swim, however, we body-surfed. It was pretty great. Trev got tumbled once and wound up with sand rash on his forehead. I caught one wave perfectly and rode it into shore with my head and chest fully out of the water. Uncle Dave and Pops and Bill rode all the way in many times, trying not to injure or frighten too many small children or lesser mortals.
It was good to get hot sand between our toes. It was great to walk down the boardwalk to Asbury Park and see what’s changed since last year.It was excellent to be able to take an overwrought toddler back to Aunt Carol and Uncle Bob’s tent near the Great Auditorium. And it was good to leave in the late afternoon sticky with salt, crumbed with sand, and unreasonably hungry (what is it about going to the beach and swimming that makes a person so hungry)?
Auntie Katie came down on the third, bringing toys for the Beanlet– she sleeps with that whale/dolphin toy, Kate– and in addition to late-night chats, we were able to have lunch in Ocean Grove together with cousin Chris. Her three boys were busy making sand balls, throwing stuffed lizards at the Bean, and preparing for a meeting later in the week at the Museum of Natural History with astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the host of Nova ScienceNOW.
You may call them nerds. I call them our future overlords.
Bean got to spend a little time with her great-grandmother, too, while the rest of us looked at photographs from Grandma’s time in Hawaii just after WWII. Grandma remarked that it was “good to date sailors, because once you got tired of them, they had to ship out again,” and also totally owned the photo of herself in a grass skirt. “I kept it in a closet somewhere,” she told me, “But it finally disintegrated.”
I hope Bean has something similar to show to her granddaughter 85 years from now.
There was so much more to it than this. I am leaving out things we did– not least our two campfires– and people we saw, long drives through farmland and river valleys, through the woods near Analomink, where abandoned holiday cottages rot and grow mossy, where a sudden burst of light appears on the road from a hot-dog-and-milkshakes stand thronged with tanned high schoolers.
My mother said it was her favorite holiday ever. I’d have to agree. If you have more to add, do so in the comments. That includes pictures: as you can tell, I didn’t take very many.