It was hard to believe, when my alarm went off at 6:15 this morning, that only yesterday morning we were undertaking that overburdened-by-beach-bags, heat-drenched, glorious clamber up the dune path--legs pushed against the slipping sand, bag handles dug into flesh. And then, just when we couldn't bear it a minute longer, the sand fell away and there was the sea in front of us, now gray, then green, then a tease of blue. It took me all of only a few seconds yesterday to realize for the thousandth time that a beach weekend was what we had needed all along this summer--what my son had needed, most of all; what he had craved. There is something about the expansiveness of the ocean that fills him with an inner calm--a calm we so seldom see at home. I watched L. being L., being as I long to see him all these hot summer days, made giddy by the waves, throwing up handfuls of muddy sand, shouting into the sky, happy, so happy, and with such an inner peace about him.
We had a fabulous weekend. But, as with all quick weekends away with small children, the getting home part is usually the worst. When you cram so many fun things into such a short period of time--waves, sand, beach air, the excitement of a motel room stay (those little soaps! Plastic cups! Motel stationery!), dinner out, breakfast out, more sand, waves, beach air--and then pair this with a detour to a Revolutionary War battleground on the return trip, it's hard to come back and be, well...home. Within ten minutes of walking into the front door, the kids (who had been fabulous all weekend long, except for a brief period of whining in the car while we circled around and around beach access roads on Saturday trying to find a free parking spot) promptly crashed in the throes of anticlimax. Soon they were at each other tooth and nail again, falling back into old and familiar patterns of behavior--all the ones, I guess, they'd put on hold while we were away.
Perhaps one of the biggest things we learned this weekend is that vacations are hard to let go of, even the smallest ones. When you're somewhere perfect, like the beach, it's as if a door has opened for you, ushering you into a better place, where you can let go of your old roles and obligations. When you return, the door closes behind you, and suddenly there you are, back in your familiar routines again. You're glad to be home, but a piece of you is still in that vacation place, the one you left behind. So back home again last night we wrapped ourselves up in our routines again: mediated squabbles, mended hurt feelings, fixed dinner, fed the dog, walked the dog, bathed the kids, read stories, and I tucked L. in about five times. By the fifth time, my patience was gone; sapped at the thought of all the work still waiting for me.
"Don't get up AGAIN," I grouched at him fiercely, while planting a good-night kiss on his forehead.
"But I can't sleep!"
"Yes you can, if you give yourself a chance."
"But Mama, at the motel I could see you from my bed!"
"We're just downstairs, L., not far away at all."
"I wish we lived at the motel," he shot back, as I left his room.
There's a thought, I said to myself.
But all was mercifully peace and quiet for the rest of the evening, while Scott and I folded laundry, watched TV, and I graded papers and tried to mentally motivate myself for the week's teaching. Then, when it was time to go to bed, I headed upstairs and almost stumbled over L., who was stretched out fast asleep on the hallway runner at the top of the stairs, his blue plaid blanket tucked around his legs, and the motel stationery note pad clutched in his left hand.
It's hard to let go of a weekend at the beach, it really is.