Think of this as a postcard from me to you, sent from Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, the site of the wee wife’s annual family pilgrimage to the ocean. It’s summer’s annual exclamation point, just as the first falling leaves whisper autumn, the first snow flakes bespeak winter, and the long-distance v-formations of geese heading north herald spring.
Vacation’s mark on the calendar is usually sacred but this year, it changed. Surprisingly, the change wasn’t driven by that devious little Shrek-like virus, but rather because one set of cousins mysteriously decided to go at the end of August rather than during the first two weeks of summer’s last hurrah. So when one set of plans changed, all changed and, to be honest, given all the other permutations that have occurred since Covid-19 reared its ugly little head, this particular change seems to have worked pretty well for our ever-increasing tribe. There are fewer umbrellas dotting the shoreline and more parking places in town. We could probably even get a last-minute dinner reservation if we were so inclined, but dining in at the end of a long beach day in our respective family bubbles suits me just fine.
Despite the reduced hurly-burly on the beach and around town, the logistics of this family vacation are still staggering. A motorcade of cars the size of big rigs are crammed with food and drink, clothes, beach toys, baby accoutrement, bicycles and helmets, golf clubs, and the kitchen sink. This year, the family has spread out over five different houses, partly to observe the new rules of social distancing and partly because we couldn’t find an entire hotel to rent. I’ve lost actual count of this year’s conglomeration, but I’m pretty sure it’s north of forty. I know because I took a head count yesterday—three times. Each time I got a different number but the count was always over forty.
I’ve come to understand that “vacation” is a relative term. For a few lucky souls, it might mean abandoning routines, relaxing, reading, napping, and generally escaping the daily grind. For our family, however, it means the tempo gets turned up, the world spins a bit faster, volume increases, feelings get bruised then repaired in the blink of an eye, daily routines revolve around the moods and schedules of the kids, and dinners are more like an army mess tent than a romantic meal under the stars. Down here at the beach, by the time the stars come out, I’m ready for bed. I’d go, but dinner for the grownups is still an hour away.
I’ve learned to survive the maelstrom by sitting back and watching the show unfold like a Seinfeld episode. There’s a crazy neighbor or two, some quirky relatives and friends, and the plot is usually about absolutely nothing. If I’m ever tempted to get drawn into one of the family soap operas, some miraculous restraining impulse takes over to save me. I recline in my beach chair and pretend to sleep. Fortunately for me, nobody seems to mind. This family is as inclusive as they come and I think my status as an outlaw is secure. At least for today.
Anyway, we’re here, toes in the sand, listening to the surf, sipping a beer, chatting away, and praying for sunny weather because the alternative is unthinkable. We miss you. I think we’re having shrimp for dinner tonight, but I’m not worried. Whatever gets conjured up, I’m sure it will be like my favorite old-time candy: good and plenty.
And as we always say to each other, “Love you.”
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com