Yet this past week, I found myself waking up in a strange bed every morning, with my first thought being "Thank you God."
This week was our annual trip to Long Beach Island, the cozy little beach town on the Jersey Shore that we go to every summer. It is a slowly meandering vacation. There is the occasional bike ride, or drive to the amusement park down the road, but for the most part it is just pure lazy beach time. A typical day involves drinking coffee on the porch, followed by dragging far too much gear (beach chairs, boogie boards, umbrella for shade breaks, snacks, towels, more snacks, that book you can't stop reading) down the street to claim a spot on the sand before the lifeguards set up their stations. Then there is a morning swim. Some conversation, catching up with family. You try to read but keep getting distracted by all the talking. At some point the ice cream vendor appears to ring his bell like the Pied Piper. You negotiate the ice cream rules. (Maya gets one per day, whenever she wants it.) You go back to the house for lunch. You take a nap. You go back to the beach. You go back to the house for dinner. You have a glass of wine on the porch. That cool cousin who loves to braid does some fancy crown-like thing to your hair. You play some cards which is really just an excuse to giggle a lot and make fun of your cousins. You go to bed. There is a lot of sand in there. You wake up and do it all over again.
Of course, not every LBI trip has been so blissful. There was that year when Maya was two and would not let me leave her sight for a minute without screaming her head off. No napping that summer. ("Mama! Mama! Want mama!"MAMAMAMAAAAAAAA!") There were the weeks where it rained half the time and suddenly all those nice conversations started to feel more like being trapped inside a crowded elevator with a bunch of people who would not stop asking questions.
And then there was last summer. The summer of pain.
Dramatic, I know. But when I woke up every morning this week, my first thought was "Thank you God. Thank you for allowing me to get out of bed so easily. Thank you for letting me make my eggs and bacon without a splitting headache. Thank you for allowing me to sit on a beach chair for more than five minutes without grimacing. Thank you for another pain free day here at the shore."
Last year I had injured my neck and shoulder exactly two days prior to leaving for LBI and spent the entire week alternating between lying flat on my back on the floor and wrapping myself in a heating pad/ice pack. No position was comfortable for more then a few minutes. There were some nice moments in the water with Maya, and a few evenings where the wine took the edge off enough to enjoy the view. But mostly, it just sucked. And I did not realize exactly how much it sucked until I had this year to compare it to.
Should I have been able to ignore my discomfort and enjoy my vacation? Yes, absolutely. I was not the only family member in pain that summer. In fact, every year someone is dealing with something, an injury, an illness, an emotional struggle. Most of these people manage to suck it up and enjoy the beach anyway.
Or perhaps they just had a better poker face than I did.
But hey, there is nothing like a crappy vacation to make you really, really appreciate a good one, right?
So thank you universe. Thank you for this wonderful week with the family. It was one of the best ones in a long time. I even enjoyed the noisy arcade. (Almost. I almost enjoyed it. Although what I was thinking going on that nauseating roller coaster I will never know!) Thank you for beautiful sunny skies and cool, foamy waves. Thank you for Maya, who learned new card games, and how to boogie board and how to cross streets with her cousins. (Look for cars, goddamn it, look for CARS!) Thank you for morning conversations in the kitchen and afternoon conversations on the sand. Thank you for Oreos. Thank you for the ice cream truck. Thank you for fishtail braids (that I still cannot do) and good books and long walks collecting shells. Thank you for gross, farty little boys. Thank you for husbands and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and family friends and that one poor person on the beach whose choice of bathing suit causes hours of cruel entertainment. Thank you for coffee. Thank you for comfort. Thank you for a traffic free ride down the Garden State towards home. Thank you for the sand on my living room floor. Thank you for the sand in my daughter's hair that won't wash out until some time after Labor Day.
And so on. I'm feeling grateful.
You get the picture.
Happy end of summer everyone.
Bring on the second grade!
(For Maya. I already completed second grade.)