Still on vacation, still loving it. Awesome food, awesome things to do. Went on a ghost tour last night, was sufficiently freaked out. This is formerly Nicholas Cage's property, now supposed to be Johnny Depp's, and is THE most haunted site in the French Quarter. It is considered so terrible that locals won't even walk on the sidewalk next to it--they cross the street:
When I was little, my brother, sister, and I frequently grieved the fact that we did not go on family vacations. "Why can't WE go to Florida?" we would whine accusingly at our parents.
"Because," said my father, barely giving us a second look. "Those people who go to Florida and anywhere else don't have what we have. We have the beach."
"The beach" is what we call the family cottage at Lake Erie. It is a beach, in fact, and every summer we stayed there for two weeks in July. All other Saturdays and Sundays, we made the twenty-five minute drive out to the lake, already wearing our bathing suits and listening to oldies of my dad's specific choosing, to spend the day. On special days, my mom brought or cooked dinner out there. My aunt and uncle came, too, and all of us spread out big blankets on the white sand and laid in the sun all day long, until we were crispy and sandy and completely drained of any more energy. We did not play volleyball. We did not wear water shoes. We did not even wear sunscreen (I was supposed to on what my uncle calls "the old Michalek nose," but always refused). We sat in the sand eating chips, drinking Coke, and swimming in the waves from morning until night and then we went home.
As a kid, I wondered what I missing. So many other kids got to go away and see places and do things I had never done. "What about summer camp?" I once asked my dad. "Can I try summer camp?"
"I've been to summer camp," he'd said. "Trust me, all you'll do is wish you were here at the beach."
I didn't really pout over this canned response, though it was dismissive and didn't dissuade me from believing I was missing out on something. But I LOVED the beach, and when I was there, even on those Saturday and Sunday day trips, I definitely did NOT want to go home. Ever. Something about being beside the shore of the lake made me breathe more evenly, or my heart beat more steadily. Or something like that. It felt more at home to be there than it did to actually be at home.
The first trip I ever took on my own without my family was to London. I went with my school when I was seventeen, and I cried the entire first twenty-four hours I was gone. An angsty girl, I never anticipated how much I wished they were there beside me. But I think what set me off was that the Thames was so NOT Lake Erie. It was not blue and vast and twinkly, and it did not make my breathing easier. So I wished for what would...for the lake, and my family all around me, and Coke and chips.
Once, for the Fourth of July, Joe whisked me off to Toronto for the weekend. He paid extra for a room facing Lake Ontario; it was considered a prime room in the hotel and he was so proud of himself for managing it. I was thrilled until I stood in front of the wide windows overlooking a blue sparkly body of water that was not mine. How weird is that? And because it was actually summer and I knew I COULD be at the beach, it physically hurt. My dad had been right years before: all I was doing was wishing for the beach.
On this trip that I am on now, today, in this moment, Joe made sure I was somewhere warm. As someone who loves the beach and the summer, I really do suffer from some form of the Winter Blues. I am looking out an old, old window right now into the bright sunny skies of New Orleans, and I have been wearing t-shirts for days and breathing clean, warm fresh air. And I am super excited to be here, because it's some place I've always wanted to experience and because at home it is freezing and snowing...or snow is coming?...I'm not really sure and don't exactly care to know, but still...I miss my summers at the beach. I miss my sister next to me on a blanket, smelling like coconuts, and my brother wiping sand off his feet (because despite the fact that all three of us love the beach as much as my dad, Pauly feels serious disgust over sandy feet), and my mom looking like someone of "exotic descent" (that's what the nurse described to my sister when my mom tried to get in the hospital to see my nephew, who was a summer baby), and my Dad, with a rum and coke in his hand and his "ball cap" perched atop his head.
I guess he was right. Anyone can take a vacation, and they are GREAT (this one certainly is)...but some things are just better.