On Vacation by Jamie Kirkpatrick


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Down in the War Room, the situation is getting tense. Months of intense planning have come down to just a few days now. The General and her senior staff officers all know their jobs; they have planned and practiced and drilled for this moment. They are quietly confident, but still, they know that war is hell and that something could go unexpectedly, dreadfully wrong at the last moment, so they go over the plans again: battle lines, strategic planning, supplies and logistics, personnel. Operations will commence in three days at precisely zero-six-hundred hours. We are going to the beach.

Rehoboth, to be precise. In the Book of Genesis, Issac, son of Abraham, needed water for his flock so he commanded his servants to dig two wells. But when the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with them about the location of these wells, Issac had a third well dug. Everyone seemed satisfied, so Issac called the place Rehoboth saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”

It may not be quite so biblical these days, but to us, Rehoboth, Delaware is still a place of rest and refreshment. We have rented the same house for several years now and for the first two weeks of August, it is our very own Camelot by the sea. It’s a well-used place with a slightly musty odor, comfortable furniture, five bedrooms, three bathrooms, two refrigerators, and best of all, an airy wrap-around porch, perfect for morning coffee or evening cocktails. It’s also just a short bike ride to the center of town for supplies or to the beach for a day of toes-in-the-sand.

For the past three years, our army has consisted of as many as four generations of soldiers, a battalion of aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws, plus numerous camp-flowers, sidekicks, and friends. The number may vary from day-to-day, but there are always enough of us to put up a good fight. We each have our own assigned duties: cooking, grilling, KP in the mess hall; delivery of copious quantities of operational supplies to the beach; lunch runs, ice runs, beer runs, and more ice runs for R&R.

The rhythm of our time at the beach hardly ever varies. Because our army really does march on its stomach, most of the planning revolves around food. Croissants from Lingos in the morning, steak-and-cheese sandwiches from Louis’ at lunch, and for dinner a rotating feast that includes (of course) crabs one night, ribs another, burgers and dogs yet another, fresh corn and tomatoes every night, mac and cheese or pizza for the kids, and always plenty of wine and beer for the adult troops.

Like any army, we pray for good weather. One rainy day is acceptable every once in a while, two in a row gets dicey, three for more is a recipe for disaster (thankfully, not usually on the menu). In case of rain, there are a few options (Funland, the book store, board games, the rope hammock on the porch), but nothing can ever take the place of another sunny day on the beach, a circle of chairs in the sand, and the grandkids with their pails and shovels or better yet, quietly napping under the umbrella.

By the end of our two weeks, we’re exhausted. I know that must seem strange, but I think it’s the beach’s way of saying, “Time’s up; retreat; see you next year.” After all, if vacations lasted forever, there would be no vacations.

Muse on that!

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

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