Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beached, Part 3

The beach trip came to an official end over 24 hours ago. I can’t believe how quickly the time passed. It truly felt like the trip was just getting going when it came time to pack up and vacate the premises. Coming back to reality is a bit heartbreaking. Melanie, Eddie, Peter, Creegan, and I were all incredibly happy during our stay on St. George Island. I dare say it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken.

To soften the blow of returning to normal life, I thought I’d devote the first part of this entry to the unpleasant experiences of the trip. Not everything about our vacation was perfect, and focusing on the negative may help alleviate the sadness that returning home has brought upon us. So, here are some things that I didn’t like about living in the beach house:

The water. No, not the ocean, but the tap water. It tasted terrible, and seeing as how I drink a lot of water, this made it difficult to remain sufficiently hydrated during the trip. Melanie’s youngest brother, Kaleb, was even diagnosed with dehydration after going to an emergency room during our vacation. At that point, Melanie’s family stocked up on Gatorade, but I’m not much of a fan of that. I stuck with water, using lots of ice to keep it as cold as possible, which seemed to improve the taste.

Illness. Not only did Kaleb (and his girlfriend, Kaya) end up in the emergency room during our vacation, but in total, 19 of the 21 people who would stay in the beach house ended up with some sort of short-term flu. To be fair, Melanie and our sons all battled the flu just before going to the beach house, and it could be argued that we brought the bug with us. Yes, some of my family had vomited mere hours before we headed to the beach house. I felt strange during our drive to the beach house, but I never puked. I’m one of the two people that were magically spared. Only Melanie’s brother Brent also avoided vomiting, diarrhea, or both. Every day of the trip saw someone new puking and laid low, but it generally passed within about 12 hours or so. The illness was short-lived for each individual, but a persistent presence during the trip overall.

The biting flies. Or whatever they were. During certain times of the day, being out on the deck of the beach house brought relentless itchiness as tiny, nearly-invisible flies of some kind would land on and subsequently bite you. These guys really were tiny. You’d feel the bite, look down at your arm, and see the tiniest black dot, almost like a piece of ash. If you didn’t feel the pain, you wouldn’t even notice them on you. You couldn’t even see the things in the air to swat them away. Not that it would do you much good, there were so many of them. You’d walk out on the deck, and within a few seconds, it’s like a dozen miniscule pins are being stabbed into various parts of your arms and legs. They were horrible.

Other sources of itchiness. This didn’t become a problem until my last day at the beach house, but ever since then, I have felt incredibly itchy, almost like I have a rash. It’s everywhere. My legs, back, arms, hands. Something irritated me, and it hasn’t gone away. I’m not sure what. On our final full day at the beach house, I went more deeply into the ocean than I have before. I can only assume that the salt water has somehow irritated my skin. Also, the top of my left foot got severely sunburned and itched like crazy as a result. But that has subsided. Now it is just the mystery irritation.

Sand. Not the sand that stays on the beach, but the unavoidable sand that gets brought back to the beach house with you. You’d do your best to wash it off, stopping at the outdoor shower before heading into the beach house. But the effort was made largely in vain. No matter what you did, a shocking amount of sand would always make its way back into the house with you. With children especially, this meant that some of it always ended up in the beds. Not a night went by that I didn’t sleep with at least a thin layer of sand beneath some part of my body.

Maintenance issues. There were many things I loved about the beach house. But we ran into a few problems as well. A few days into the trip, the ceiling fan in Melanie and my bedroom stopped working. I absolutely love having a ceiling fan on while I sleep, so this was a bummer. The wireless Internet connection was spotty, which made it quite difficult to watch streaming movies or TV as some of us tried to do a couple of times. The water heater sprung a leak while we were there. Some paneling fell off of various things, from the front of the dishwasher to a sliding glass door. And, by the time we were leaving, the fridge was barely keeping anything cool. Its performance had gradually deteriorated during our stay, and it was getting to a rather worrisome state at about the time our trip was over. If we’d had even 12 more hours to remain in the beach house, the fridge would have become a serious problem.

Creegan’s lack of sleep. Like clockwork, on every other night of the trip, Creegan struggled to sleep. He would cry and cry and cry and cry, and he was super particular about how you took care of him during these fits. Melanie couldn’t hold him when he got into these moods, it had to be me. And I had to hold him in a very particular way, or he just went nuts. He wasn’t sick or in pain or anything, he was just being spastic. I could handle this for only so long before I felt ready to throw the kid in the ocean. Waking in the middle of the night and not being able even to sit down with the kid … it’s highly irksome. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could actually lay him down once he went to sleep, but you couldn’t. You couldn’t move a muscle. Even if he was asleep, you had to just stand there, holding him in his preferred way, or disaster would ensue. It was very taxing. He has never been this bad before, so I’m hoping the trend doesn’t continue here at home.

And there are my complaints. But guess what? I still wish I were there at the beach house. I’m still sad it’s over.

As noted in my previous post, Friday was our last full day at the beach house. Melanie and I took it pretty easy that day, which was quite nice. There isn’t even that much to say about the day. One activity that the kids were quite fond of was initiated by Kaya. While on the upper deck, she got the idea of feeding the birds that would frequently fly by. She took out some bread and started tossing pieces into the air. Quickly enough, a flurry of gulls were circling overhead and enjoying the free meal. Kaya would even feed them pieces of bread directly out of her hand. The kids thought this was awesome, of course, and enthusiastically joined in. Even Creegan thought it was great, although he favored dropping whole slices of bread from the deck to the sand below. The birds merely provided a nice ambiance for his bread-related fun.

In the late afternoon, we took to the beach for the final time as a family. Melanie got Eddie out on a boogie board, which was really fun to see. As soon as he was back on the shore, I traded Creegan (who almost always fell asleep on someone’s shoulders if we were out by the water) for the boogie board Melanie had been using, and then I went out with Edison. It was fun for me to get out further into the water than I had been before. Eddie and I had fun pretending we were drifting on a piece of our cruise ship, which had sunk. We were having a great time, until a slightly big wave splashed a little too much in Eddie’s face and freaked him out a bit. He was then quite upset with me for taking him out so far, although I don’t think I took him any further than Melanie had. Still, it put an end to our play time and he spent a good amount of time moping after that. I tried to coax Peter out on the boogie board, but he wouldn’t have it.

Friday night ended up being a pizza night. Each family unit had taken a turn making one of the dinners during the trip—Melanie and I made Easter dinner, which included turkey, funeral potatoes, and croissants; William’s family made broccoli and cheese enchiladas on Monday night; Kaleb and Kaya made fettuccine alfredo, garlic bread, and grilled asparagus one night; etc.—but Friday hadn’t been assigned to anyone. Melanie’s older brother, Mark, was the last to arrive at the beach house, flying in late on Wednesday afternoon for a three-night stay. He volunteered to buy pizza as his way of contributing to the meals. And so he and a few others went to BJ’s and brought back some pizzas. The pizza was quite good, far better than Melanie and I had remembered from when we visited the same restaurant a few days earlier. My favorite was the bacon pizza. I never would have thought about bacon as a solo pizza topping, but it was super good. I stuffed myself silly.

Creegan went to sleep quite well on Friday night, which was wonderful because it allowed Melanie and me to spend our final night hanging out with family. When it was finally time to go to bed, Melanie and I took one last stroll out to the beach. We hadn’t gone out late at night before, and it was really cool. It was so dark out that you couldn’t really see where the water began until you were practically standing in it. Seriously. It was almost creepy. But the sky was amazing. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that many stars.

While I had originally hoped to do something fun on Saturday morning, there really wasn’t any time to do so. Melanie and I got up, packed, and did some minor cleaning, as required by the rental agreement. The beach house is actually a private residence that the owner rents out when he can, so it’s not like a hotel where they do all of the cleaning up for you. Still, the requirements were minor and easy enough to satisfy. Packing up the van was the most difficult part. I thought we’d be coming home with substantially less than we had taken, since we had initially supplied quite a bit of the food and other household products. But somehow there was a ton of food and supplies left over, and Melanie and I took much of it home with us. Our van was only slightly less crowded than when we had first headed to the beach house.

Being back in Tallahassee doesn’t feel terrible. It feels normal, but the beach house felt special, so it’s sad by comparison. It’s surprising how much warmer it is being away from the water. I miss the wind. I miss the cool air. More than once, I actually felt a little chilly while at the beach house. When we got back to Tallahassee and were almost home, I saw a sign that said the temperature was currently 90 degrees. It’s hot. The ocean isn’t close enough to keep us cool, only humid. It’s quite a downgrade.

I’ll finish up here with a couple of photographs that I’m stealing from Kaya. She took some cool panoramic photos with her cell phone. The first was taken from the upper balcony on the front of the house, and so it does not overlook the water. The second was taken from the lower deck behind the house. You can see the boardwalk that we used to get to the beach, the green hill that somebody in our group dubbed “the turtle,” and on the far right, the deck where we all spent some of our time lounging.  Both pictures look much better if you click on them to enlarge them.

And that, sadly, is the end.

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