Summer, Highland Falls

Jeff and Dad, Outer Banks 2011

I call Dad Thursday to see how everything is going down in the Outer Banks. (I guess it’s not down so much as over.) Usually I call Mom but every once in a while I have to make the Dad call. He’s always surprised and happy and wondering why I’ve decided to call him specifically – he thanks me three times during our phone conversation. The Outer Banks is a new thing. Last year was our first time down there. It was great, and cheaper than the Jersey shore. The only bad thing is the drive.

Prior to that, we’ve always gone to Ocean City. We’ve been going to the same place during the same week every year for nine years and they’ve never upped the price. They being the older couple who owns the house. But two years ago Dad got the phone call that they had to sell the place, so if we wanted to rent there it would be double what we had previously been paying. It was a deal breaker.

Still, I’ve had a lot of great Ocean City memories. Going down for a whole week was a big deal – we were only used to day trips when we were little. Mom would make the most of it though, packing us into the station wagon early in the morning and staying on the beach for the entire day. I remember gallons of water – that’s what she rinsed us off with on the side of the road. We’d strip down and Mom would make a wall of towels around us as we changed into warm, clean clothes. The back of the station wagon would be calling our name as the five of us climbed in and passed out for the ride home, exhausted from a long day in the sun.

Glasses, jacket, hair scrunchie

When we finally started going down for an entire week it was such a treat. I loved it so much I wrote about it for a school assignment. Right before the move to California when I had to sift through all my stuff in the attic, I found a couple written pieces. The following is an account of one of our earlier family vacations. I hope we were supposed to be very descriptive, because I use a lot of adjectives:

“We’re driving to Ocean City and it’s taking forever. Or so it seems like it is. As we near to the ocean, we all open our windows to smell the fresh, salt air. We’re about to spend two whole weeks here (false: only one week) and I can’t wait. It seems as though my Dad is going faster to get to our mint green beach house. When we finally get there, we unpack all of our belongings and put them in our room. I share my room with my older sister Sarah. She has brown hair and bright, blue eyes (how nice). We both love the room. Two twin beds are separated by a little dresser. Above our beds is a window overlooking the street. Across the room is a big dresser, a lamp, and a closet. (Mom tells me now it was really not a nice house.) Eager to go to the beach, we unpack immediately.

“During those two weeks (one week) my family had a lot of fun. On the beach, I played a game with my little sister (I guess the twins counted as one person). We tried to see who could dive through the most waves right before they crashed down on us like a ton of bricks. Besides going on the sandy beach, my family had a lot of fun in our home. We played Trivial Pursuit almost every day (there’s no way I knew any answers so I don’t understand why I was playing). On a rainy day, we spent the whole day playing Risk. This was the longest (worst) game I ever played (and would never play again). It must have taken about five hours (longer). I came in third and my Dad won (shocking that Dad beat his five young children in a board game).

“It was hard to leave Ocean City because I would have to leave the sandy beach and the clear (more like dark and murky) ocean water. It was easy to leave when I thought about going back to my friends, and especially my little beagle (he was staying with Uncle Chuck, who later told me Napoleon ran away and he watched him almost get hit by a car). I missed him so much. In the end, I was happy to leave, and I still have the memories of Ocean City, which I cherish today.”

Risk – worst game ever

Well I certainly loved going to the beach with my family. That didn’t change as I got older. We all looked forward to that one week every year. Mom counted down the days, and cared about nothing else when we arrived. She wanted to go to the beach and read her book. Dad especially looked forward to sleeping in (which was still too early for me: like 8am compared to his usual 3am). He passed out on the beach every day, and as soon as he returned to the house and showered, had a cocktail in hand. Stetson family fun nights consisted of cards and board games, and as we got older, lots of drinking, of course. Eventually we were allowed to bring a friend. Otherwise, we might kill each other – five siblings can only be around each other for so long.

This is the first year I didn’t go on vacation with the family, which is a total bummer. I guess these “firsts” are going to keep happening as long as I live in California. Whenever we can’t go to something, Mike always says the same thing. “Maybe next year.” Yes, maybe next year. And maybe eventually we’ll (as in me and Mike, not just me), will be making so much money we can just fly our families out here. That would be something. Not that I wouldn’t love to go home, too. Because even though I love California, there’s nothing like the Jersey shore.

*Billy Joel

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