Beach Routine

I love that my routine drastically changes while I’m on vacation. No alarm clock or clothing considerations or work email. No chores or errands. My only concern is how to sufficiently soak up the day’s rays.

My wonderful parents made arrangements for the family to spend a full week in Duck, NC. Mom booked the house last fall, based on a few photos posted to an Outer Banks realty website. Needless to say, she was apprehensive. But the place couldn’t have been more perfect! A staircase lead from the driveway to the front door, inside and up two more short sets before opening into a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. The floor-to-ceiling windows lined the walls of the living room, dining room, and kitchen. And the 12-foot ceiling gave the illusion of being outdoors. There was a master suite upstairs and four additional bedrooms downstairs. All rooms opened to a shared balcony — one on the first floor and one on the second floor. And this was our exceptional home for the week!

Each of us easily settled into our “beach routine.” I woke when the sunlight poured into our bedroom, along with the salty scent of the ocean waves. Nick and I strolled along the beach with our toes in the water and our eyes searching for shells. Andrew jumped on his bike for a long morning ride and picked up a newspaper along the way. We all returned to the house and the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. Dad took breakfast orders — chocolate chip pancakes and sausage or eggs scrambled with crab meat and a side of bacon. We scattered ourselves along the bar or around the kitchen table to eat while Sadie watched for scraps.

After breakfast, we retreated to our rooms to change into our beachwear. Bathing suit, cover-up, flip-flops, and a headband to secure my wispy hair. Lots of SPF 30 sunscreen and my mesh bag including a towel, a bottle of water, and a book. The teenagers, Laura and Courtney, were typically the first to reach the beach. They laid out the big blanket and staked their spots. Nick and I were usually next, adding beach chairs and an umbrella to the mix. Next came Andrew with an armload of boogey boards. Finally Dad in his muscle shirt and red handkerchief. Mom wondered back and forth throughout the day, sometimes with Sadie. Their favorite sitting spot was where the water broke onto the sand.

The beach was always calm and never crowded. There was the group of 30-something men who sat side-by-side-by-side with a cooler of beer within reach. And the Golden Retriever who fetched his frisbee from the ocean and once lifted his leg to pee on a neighbor! (The good-natured man just laughed.) There were a few kids with wet ringlets of hair, sandy feet, and pails in their hands. Sometimes we saw a runner or an elderly couple walking hand-in-hand. This scene was much different — and much more enjoyable — than our previous trips to Ocean City and Rehoboth and Avalon.

When we tired of reading and relaxing, we ventured into the water. We had to wade through a few strides of deep water before reaching the bar. There the water touched just above our waists. Andrew attempted to teach the rest of us how to catch the perfect wave and ride the boogey board into the pebbles of sand at the shore. I caught only two during the entire week, but he and Nick had several competitive rides.

Sadie also enjoyed the atmosphere. The first day, she tentatively walked towards the sand until the water hit her paws, then she raced back to dry land. The second day, however, she had no fear. She chased us into the ocean, waded through the water, and rode the waves to shore. And in her typical stubborn fashion, she defiantly pulled against her leash when we tried to lead her back to the house. Unfortunately, none of us — especially Sadie — knew what happened when a poor puppy swallowed a few too many mouthfuls of salt water. Let’s just say her behind was so sore that she couldn’t even sit! She didn’t let the water rise above her feet after that painful evening.

Back to the beach … When our bellies began to growl after a morning of beach lounging, we headed back to the house to eat; lunch meat sandwiches, tricolor pasta salad, and locally grown fruit — peaches, grapes, raspberries, and blueberries — frequented the menu. And there was always room for an ice cream sandwich or Klondike bar or slice of Texas sheet cake. I often heard the crisp pop of a Coors Light can tab shortly after lunch. (Mom and I opted for Coronas with lime wedges.) Then it was back to the beach for more reading, napping, and playing until late afternoon.

Finally it was time to rinse the sticky sunscreen from our bodies and scrub the sand from our hairlines. Refrigerated Aloe gel soothed our sun-kissed shoulders before we slipped into comfy clothes for an evening of leisure. I curled onto one Chaise lounge with my book and Mom relaxed on the other with her cross-stitch. Meanwhile the girls — with their virgin Pina Coladas — set up their easels near the hammock swing on the first floor balcony, the boys settled in for a few intense games of Sequence, and Sadie followed Dad onto the upper balcony to be serenaded by his guitar. When we were all ready, we began to prepare dinner. Every meal was incredibly tasty — grilled steak fajitas, shrimp and pineapple kebabs, Dad’s famous pizza pies, hard shell crabs, and steamed crab legs. My favorite was the homegrown fish fry, which included flounder, tuna, mahi mahi, swordfish, and salmon. Roasted red potatoes, spinach salad with strawberries, and grilled veggies complimented the menus.

After cleaning our dinner plates, we chose our game for the night. Whether it was Mexican Dominoes or Tripoloy or Sequence, we put on our competitive hats and let the wisecracks roll. We usually retired to our rooms shortly after just to wake up and do it all over again the next day.

It was a really fantastic vacation — one that I hope we can replicate down the road … perhaps with an added generation!

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