We were invited to the beach a year or so ago by one of the married couples in our Sunday school class. Technically the entire class was invited. They have access to their parents’ condo in Orange Beach, AL. They told us they use it most every weekend during the summer months. The gig was for us to come down any time of day and hang out to do, whatever. The available amenities are a pool, tennis court, and of course the beach. Our hosts were going to fire up the grill and provide the burgers. We the guests would supply the sides. Lunch would be served around noon.
The planned itinerary for the beach trip was set. The plan called for the kids to get up about 8:00, eat a little breakfast, get dressed, pack the van with the beach toys, and leave the house about 10:00. Looking back...maybe it was not such a good idea to tell the kids the night before we were going to the beach when they woke up.
As I rolled over in bed, feeling certain I had a few more winks before hearing the alarm, I see a freighting sight. My oldest daughter (7 at the time) is dressed in her bathing suit, at what turned out to be 6:30, staring at me with a big grin on her face. “When are we leaving for the beach dad?” “After breakfast” was my grumbled reply. At 7:00 my youngest (3 at the time) arrived in her bathing suit to stand beside her sister. Now they are both staring at me. Isn’t it cute when your kids are using their whisper voice but are actually talking louder than normal? “Dad is it time to go yet?” I decided to get up and fix breakfast.
Breakfast was made with two purposes in mind. One - killing a little time to get their minds off the beach. Two - sustaining them until the burgers were ready at noon. I decided to make them biscuits, grits, and bacon. Frozen biscuits take about 20 minutes (Hardee's would not be proud of me). My thinking was the big breakfast will keep their minds off the beach for at least 20 minutes. What I got was two kids with 20 minutes to kill while the biscuits were cooking. “When are going to the beach daddy?” “Girls I told you we are leaving at 10:00.” “Daddy what time is it?” “7:16” “When are going to the beach daddy?” “Girls I told you we are leaving at 10:00.” “Daddy what time is it?” “7:17” To get an idea of what it was really like…repeat these questions for the next 18 minutes.
After breakfast was eaten, mess cleaned up, thousand questions answered, the house cleaned, the toys picked up, and the trash removed (you have to clean the house before you leave on a trip - southern tradition). All of the sudden it is time to go! I get a new set of questions: “Did you pack their shovels, buckets, floaties, sunscreen, did you put ice in the ice chest, where are the change of clothes I put on their bed, did you pack the snacks for the ride over and back?” Those are the questions I was able to remember. My response “Where did the morning go?”
It was 10:00; go time. I tell the girls to get in the Beach-mobile. Amazing how fast the little punks can open the van door, climb in their seats, buckle their own seat belts, all without incident or fighting when it’s somewhere they want to go. “Did you make them go the bathroom?” ~fingernails scratching blackboard~ Unloading kids from the Beach-mobile when they have been up since 6:30, dressed in their bathing suits, asking when are we going to the beach every 60 seconds, after shouting at them “TIME TO GO THE BEACH GIRLS WOO HOOO”, to get out of the van and go use the potty; was met with considerable resistance.
As we are driving on the interstate to get to the beach, we had allotted an extra 30 minutes for our trip in case there was an accident. Luckily we all made it without anyone wetting their pants. As we cruised the highway next to the beach my wife noticed a new feature to our Alabama coastal scene – Parasailing. We have not been to the beach during the peak season in quite a number of years. Now that we have kids, our speed is more along the lines of mid October when high school and college kids are back in school. She was taken in by the new beach parasailing fad. She was amazed at how many there were. “Look there is another one…and another! I would NOT do that. You can probably see what is swimming in the water from up there.” She counted about 7 or 8 parasailer’s before we arrived at our destination.
We were the only couple to show up with kids, although it was clearly stated we could bring kids. We knew immediately we were going to be the life of the party; we had the most stuff. “Can we just leave these buckets, shovels, Frisbees, floaties, and backpacks in the hall or is it OK to have them out by the front door?” I asked our speechless hostess. She mustered up enough to fumble out an introduction to her younger unmarried brother. I asked him, “Where is all your beach stuff dude?” He calmly replied, “I got my hat and a towel - I’m good.” Poor fellow must have been raised by his uncle.
Our hosts were right on schedule with lunch. The burgers were on the grill and the appetizers were sitting out. Before we could get our burger fixed the kids had already managed to spill a drink on the table and a drop some chip dip on a few cloth chairs. Our hostess calmly says “Oh don’t worry, the cushions have scotch guard. That should come out.” These beach people do not take long to eat. You would think they would eat more for all the energy they burn up playing in the sun. “Are you and your family ready to go to the pool?”
We asked if we could use the bathroom to change into our suits and sunscreen the girls. "We only have the one bathroom." While all my girls were in the restroom one of the other couples whispered to the hostess, “Is there a changing room by the pool we could use?”
The girls came out of from the bathroom and passed off the new aerosol sunscreen we had bought for the trip. We are trying to be more cautious of the affects of the sun on our skin. I start spraying the sunscreen on my tender belly white skin that has not seen Mr. U.V. Sunray since the late 80’s. “This new aerosol...-cough-...sunscreen...–waving the spray away from my face-...is great...–cough-...isn’t it?” As I am being led out the front door our host suggest, “Why don’t we go to the pool out back, its less crowded.” The look on his face seemed to say “Hey the less people to witness this circus show the better.”
We get to the pool out back and our kids are in heaven. They are enjoying it so much they have to let everyone within the next three counties know about it. ‘High pitched shrieking squeal’ is a phrase that seems to do no justice for a three year old that is let loose on a floatie in the shallow end of a pool. It was pool party time.
As my wife and I slipped into the shallow end to make sure our girls did not drown, the guys with no kids worked on setting up a paddle ball game with their spouses. “OK guys against girls. Whoever can keep the ball going the longest, wins. Go. OK the team that can hit it more than two consecutive times, wins. Go. OK the team that can hit it two times in a row.” The paddles are put on the side of the pool. “Sooo, when did your girls learn to swim?”
My two girls were having a blast splashing and swimming around. The guys had decided conversation about the economy was easier than co-ed pool paddle ball. Their spouses were talking with their hands over their mouths…I could not quite make out if was about “American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest” or “Can you believe this”…there was a lot of kids squealing in the back ground. Finally somebody asked what time is was getting to be.
“Ooooo Daddy said a bad word!”
We had been in the pool for about two and half hours. It felt like thirty minutes. This is a phenomenon known to parents as, bliss. When you can hang out in the pool or anywhere for that matter, enjoying yourself watching the kids swim, engage in adult conversation with other adults, and not know that two and half hours pass, pure bliss.
“We need to start heading back toward home honey.” The kids scream that they are not ready to go. “OK but just five more minutes.” This parental declaration of course means any time frame between another minute to an hour and 5 minutes. The amount of time depends on what kind of mess they make, the type of dessert that is brought out, a piece of gossip you were not expecting, or if your team scores a touchdown. In this case another several minutes go by because both the kids and the adults were still enjoying themselves. But as the aerosol sunscreen seemed to have worn off my shoulders and my internal fire alarm was going off, I made the roundup call – “OK girls lets go, get out of the pool.”
It seemed be working. My wife got out, my oldest daughter got out, and my youngest was heading toward the steps in her floatie. I get out and get my towel to start drying off. “That is not the towel I brought for you!” Being the only man in the house with three women I have learned I am nasty. I have to have my own towel, toothpaste, soap, chair, even a separate bathroom (it’s at the corner gas station). In my house there is a distinct separation of his and theirs. As I put one of the sacred towels down and reached for a designated nasty man towel I stub my pinky toe. It has no bearing on the story whatsoever but just for the record nobody noticed my discomfort.
As we are drying off and packing up our pool supplies I turn around and notice my youngest is still in her floatie, in the pool. She is the ONLY one in the pool. She is not a good swimmer. She is out in the middle of the pool. Calmly as to not frighten my wife, I call out softly “Honey come on let’s go, get out.” “No Daddy.” My oldest offered her advice of counting to three. “Thanks but she realizes she is way over there and I am way over here and I am already dressed and will not be getting back in to get her. Don’t think she is going to go for the three-count sweetie.” After several more statements of quiet encouragement to exit the pool before we are noticed. I see a full proof solution.
The lifeguards’ shepherds hook is hanging next to the pool on the bathroom house. I throw out one last command that goes unanswered. Then I grab hold of the lifeguard hook and show it to my youngest. She shrieks louder than ever. It draws everyone’s attention, even from the charter fishing boat going by in the canal. I hook her around the waist in a picture perfect lifeguard rescue and pull her to the side. She is half giggling due to the coolness of what is happening and half crying because she has been outsmarted by her old man. I heard applause from the one inebriated lady that had come to the pool to continue indulging in her spirits and read a romance novel. She said “Looks like you have done that before - pool boy.” “Yes ma’am I have. If you do not ease up on those daiquiris I may have to use this on you later.”
We return to the condo to get the girls changed into dry clothes and offer thanks to the hosts for allowing us come visit. They graciously, with a straight face, tell us how much they enjoyed us being there and what a joy the kids were. We pack up and start our trek back home. The girls of course fall asleep within 10 minutes of getting the van. Ah the thrill a father gets knowing that his children are getting to nap on the ride home after playing in the hot sun all day only to wake up as soon we pull in the driveway ready to play again, brings a feeling over him that is nearly indescribable.
As I unpack the coolers, bags, wet towels, toys, Tupperware, wet bathing suits, empty soda cans, beach chairs, sand buckets, shovels, backpacks and other stuff from the van; my wife asked me where I put my pair of swimming trunks. I tell her they are in my backpack. I get them out and hand them to her. As she is walking to the laundry room she stretches them out and holds them up, “I could have parasailed home behind the van.”