There’s arguing, fun, sandy messes, laughter and even hot tempers as we enjoy the small, quaint cottage in Old Lyme. This rental is the type of place with a claw tub, hard wood floors, tarnished brass door handles and a comfortable breezy screened in porch.
Each day, we pack up our gear, drag towels down the short walk to the beach and slap on the sunscreen. Day after day, we tend to see the same cluster of families hunker down for the duration.
During a weeklong vacation, you can’t help but recognize the same faces, same bathing suits, same umbrellas. You hear the same voices, just different discussions. One group exclusively discusses reality shows while with another it's just one argument after another.
Of particular notice was a large family from Boston; very loud, but extremely entertaining. This cluster of mothers doted on their overindulged children while stressing the importance of hydrating with Gatorade before inhaling their super size bags of potato chips. One kid even compared the size of the bag to his belly ... quite impressive.
All over the beach you see helicopter moms do inventories of towels, food, snacks, magazines, drinks and sunscreen. Children are often scolded from the water's edge for not having enough white, pasty substance on their skin.
Dads are snoozing with mouths gaping, pink as a King salmon, eyes closed with selective hearing to the meaning of SPF from screeching wives. Every couple of hours, the ice cream truck appears and the older children clear the beach along with toddlers pulling parents by their thumbs ... all lining up as if following the Pied Piper with dollar bills wedged between their fingers.
Even though summer is a time for family and vacations, no family is immune from the normalcy of conflict. They all argue, disagree, have tiffs and need time outs. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on vacation in the Bahamas, Europe, the Cape or Yosemite ... that’s the beauty of it! Being together is wonderful, but even lions snap at their cubs to keep order. It’s natural.
You see it all if you just sit back on your beach chair, sunglasses disguising your spying eyes. You see a mother yell at her daughter for losing her glasses on the beach. Two kids argue over beach toys and a wrestling match ensues resulting in mom’s summer reading becoming saturated with water and sand.
A father wants to leave earlier than mom to beat the weekend traffic. What begins as a simple discussion between father and son about BBQ techniques develops into a heated debate over rival baseball teams. A little girl sits crying in her pink Disney chair having received a time out because she was reluctant to help the family carry all the beach necessities to the house.
So, it seems, life at the beach isn’t as relaxing as the tide.
You watch with amusement and as you lick your lips, the familiar taste of salt from your afternoon swim still fresh. Your own family has not been immune from the summer vacation squabbles, but for the moment you will enjoy the smell of cocoa butter lotion and charcoal briquettes.
Enjoy the moment, nothing’s perfect. Expect an argument or two while on vacation, it will pass. Whether you spend the day at the beach or rent a cottage with personality, life continues even if your toes (or your head) are dug deep in the sand.