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20170703_105904I just got back from a week on Martha’s Vineyard. The main reason for going was to spread my father’s ashes around the island. You see, my father is the founder of Martha’s Vineyard for our family. He went up one weekend a million years ago with a college friend, and never wanted to vacation anywhere else.

While he was never able to afford to buy a house on the island, he turned my cousins Bob & Carol on to this summer wonderland, and they own two homes – one rental and a large home that they live in during the summer. For 52 years it has been my summer place, and it felt really good to release dad to the beauty of this island.

We began by releasing some ashes into the water during the ferry ride from Woods Hole to the Vineyard. My husband, in a flash of brilliance, let one of the crew members know we were doing it, and after dad’s ashes swirled into the air, he gave the ferry horn a long, loud blast. It was very cool, and very moving.

20170702_195615We spread more ashes on the beach in Menemsha at sunset. It was a beautiful evening spent on the beach with the family, listening to music, sipping wine and noshing from a picnic spread. I think dad would have loved it.

20170703_114816And of course, we had to leave some of dad on Gay Head. My mom’s ashes are here. It was funny…when we spread the ashes by my mom, my sister had trouble with the container, and it was a very clumsy release. It makes me laugh to think of that now, because I think it’s something my mom would have found amusing.

We also walked further down the beach and around the horn of the cliffs to spread dad among the stones, rocks and ocean. It felt right.

The trip itself was pretty hectic. I’ve never seen the island so crowded….things are definitely changing there. I’m just so pleased that there are pieces of both of my parents on the beaches where we spent so much time growing up. I know how much dad loved this place. I am certain he’s resting peacefully now.

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A few weeks ago my family, along with my two sisters and their families, spent a week at our childhood vacation spot, Martha’s Vineyard. Although I’ve been back for several weeks, I haven’t been able to blog about it because, to be honest, the vacation was too good. I’m having trouble finding a concise, interesting way to tell the tale of our week on this stunning island.

So, I won’t. I’ll just share my photos.

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It started off miserably. When we got to Wood’s Hole, it began to pour. The Weather Channel had tornado warnings for the area. Now this was a first for me. I can’t ever recall in my 50 years of going to Martha’s Vineyard, a rainy ferry ride. Maybe drizzle, but not these torrential rains.

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Luckily the skies cleared up enough for us to enjoy a very windy, but fun, ferry ride to the Island.

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Every morning, and I’m talkin’ early, my husband and I would walk into Edgartown, split a bacon, egg & cheese sandwich from the Dock Street Coffee Shop (which I highly recommend), and sit on the wharf and watch the day begin.

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South Beach was crazy. The water was so rough, I wouldn’t let my daughters go in past their knees. But when I was a kid? I would’ve been all in that, body surfing – and getting bamboozled – until my parents made me get out.

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The kid’s favorite town was Oak Bluffs, with the Flying Horses, the gingerbread cottages at the campgrounds, and of couse, the arcade. I admit it was always my favorite town as a kid too. I could ride the Flying Horses all night long.

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July Fourth was the best.

I usually dislike the 4th because there is so much pressure to do things; things which involve impossible parking, and crowds followed by fireworks and impossible parking and crowds trying to get home.

This year was a dream. Our house was within walking distance to both the parade and the fireworks – and when you’re walking with a cup? It makes for one fine Fourth o’ July.

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Typical....

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One day we spent on my cousin’s “private” beach – a strip of South Beach that is reserved for residents only. Oh, and you have to take a boat to get there. This is hubby, my sister, her daughter and my youngest enjoying the ride.

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I think we are all in agreement that our best day was close to our last…the day we spent at Gay Head. We go there to celebrate my mom’s life, and remember her passing. Her ashes were spread here more than 20 years ago, and it’s comforting to know she rests in such a magnificently beautiful spot.

Among the nudies.

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0706151206aOn our last full day there, Hubby, my neice Meaghan, and my girls mustered up the courage to jump off the Edgartown/Oak Bluffs bridge. I did this as a kid, but now? No f-in’ way.

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Before we knew it, we were packing the car and heading for the ferry. On the ride back to the mainland, we all agreed that it was the best vacation we’ve had in a long, long time. Maybe it was because we went somewhere different for a change. Or perhaps it was because my family really gets along with each other.

I think it was also because we DID a lot of things. When we go to my dads, we spend a lot of time at his house, at the pool, talking and hanging out. But on the Vineyard? We were out and about – not letting any time get wasted.

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We all want to go back. Now. Hubby admits he looks at the photos from the trip every couple of days.

And me? I’m playing the lottery. Cause I want to go back for a long, long time.

seasick1There’s not a whole lot you can do or say to convince me to go on a boat. At least not a boat where shore is not a swimmable distance away. For, somewhere between childhood and adulthood my body decided that sea legs would never be a part of my anatomy.

When I was a kid my cousin Frank had a sailboat. A couple of times he sailed into Martha’s Vineyard while we were on vacation, and he’d take us out on the sea for the afternoon. That I liked. I was young and it was exciting to be on the water.

I’m not sure when I began to feel the side effects of a rocking vessel. I never got sick on the ferry (and still don’t) but that might be because the boat is so big, or mentally I know the ride is going to be short. I’m fine in canoes, but then again I take them on a lake or river, which are rather calm.

The first time I recall getting really sick was when I went to the Jersey shore to go on my ex-boyfriend’s boat. Mark and I were toying with the idea of getting back together, and we decided to spend a day on the ocean. I felt very privileged and special to be going out on a boat…life was good and the sun was shining. We stopped at a grocery store and picked up a whole bunch of stuff to barbecue and headed for the marina.

Once we were on the boat I was fine, until we got onto the open water. Then the boat began to bob up and down and up and down. The effects were almost immediate – I was sick as a dog. Mark thought I would get used to it after a while but I didn’t. I threw up over the side of the boat and then passed out on one of the seats.

So much for getting back together.

My next adventure at sea was during a summer on Martha’s Vineyard when I was in my twenties. My cousin had separated from her husband and she and I became drinking buddies, cruising all the hot guys on the island. We had been talking to a group of very handsome young men who were going to sail in the Edgartown Regatta the following morning. They asked if we wanted to come along for ballast. While I was in the middle of saying “No Way, José,” my cousin was agreeing to go.

I explained to them both how sick I get on boats, but somehow they convinced me. Point A) I’d only gotten sick that one time; Point B) I could take Dramamine; Point C) the very cute sailor boy was going to take me out to dinner if I got sick.

The next morning we boarded the large sailboat with a bunch of other folks that I hadn’t met but was happy to be spending the day with. Even though I was nervous about being on the boat, it was pretty thrilling to be sailing in a real race! The harbor was filled with other boaters, so it took us a while to get out onto the open sea.

But it didn’t take me long to start feeling sick. As I watched the Edgartown shoreline grow smaller and smaller, my stomach grumbled louder and louder. What sucked even more, was this was no day pleasure boating. I was expected to work. I couldn’t lay down and sleep like I did on Mark’s boat. When the call came out, I had to hang over the side of the boat with the rest of the “crew.”

That was no problem – I was hanging over the side of the boat most of the day anyway. My scant breakfast of wheat toast and my dose of Dramamine came up within the first half hour.

When lunch time came, they handed out tuna salad sandwiches. Tuna? Really? Not only could I not eat it, but I threw up whatever was left in my stomach at the smell of it.

I remember hanging over the side of the boat, sick and miserable and thinking that I’d rather be almost anywhere right at that moment. I thought longingly of my desk, piled high with work that I would tackle with absolute glee, if only I could be off this boat. I was trapped, and it didn’t feel good.

The day wore on, and I went from one side of the boat to the other when the captain commanded. By 2 pm or so I began to feel better. Someone offered me a beer, and I took it. It tasted good. I felt even better. By the time we crossed the finish line I was tired, but pretty much my old self.

When we docked, I reminded my cute little sailor dude about our agreement – I’d gotten sea sick, so he owed me dinner.

I’m still waiting for the call.

I managed to stay off boats for the next 25+ years. Then two summers ago we took a trip to Virginia Beach where we rented wave runners one afternoon. My husband drove one with my youngest daughter, and I drove the other with our oldest. I was fine for the first 15 minutes. My girl and I cruised back and forth in the designated area, feeling the splash of the ocean and jumping the waves. But then the constant bobbing of the wave runner on the ocean began to take its affect on me, and I started feeling very nauseous.

I was super relieved when I saw the flag go up signaling that it was time to head back to the marina. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back without hurling. I just kept my attention on the pilot boat and the idea that I would be on terra firma again very soon.

And that was it – the last time I will ever go on a boat/watercraft out in the ocean again. Hubby broke my balls for getting sea sick on a wave runner, and I have to admit, it’s pretty lame. But lame or not, my body does not like the motion of the ocean.

So my feet will remain permanently bound to the ground – unless I’m on a ferry to the Vineyard.

Slide08_0070Growing up in northern New Jersey, it was almost a given that you would vacation somewhere along the Jersey shore. Unless, of course, you were me.

My dad? He didn’t like the Jersey shore. It was too commercial with its boardwalks and cheap motels, and you could be sure all we’d ever want to do as kids was head to some amusement pier. That could get pretty expensive with four kids.

When my family went on vacation, we headed north to Martha’s Vineyard, a little island off Cape Cod. My dad had first gone there with a friend from college back in the stone age, and he loved it’s rustic beauty and the fact that is was so unspoiled and natural. Once he married my mom and began spitting out kids, it became our summer vacation spot.

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The cliffs at Gay Head, many, many moons ago.

We’d usually head up in August. The drive up was always fun because we’d usually leave in the middle of the night. You have to take a ferry to get to Martha’s Vineyard, and if dad got a reservation on a boat leaving at 9 am, we had to leave Jersey at 2 am or so. I can remember going to sleep dressed in my shorts and a tank top so I could spring out of bed and get in the car when it was time to leave.

This was before the days of mandatory seat belts, and us kids would sleep in the back of the station wagon which was outfitted with blankets and pillows. We always stopped at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut where dad would get some coffee at Howard Johnson’s and we’d use the bathroom. Then it was back in the car and next thing you knew, we were in Wood’s Hole waiting in line for the ferry!

The ferry ride was another thing that made going to the Vineyard so special. You parked your car in the belly of the boat, and then scramble up the stairs to the deck, gather up a bunch of chairs and enjoy the ride. It takes about 30 minutes or so to reach the Island, and it was fun to try and guess whether the boat would dock in Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs. I always hoped for Oak Bluffs.

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On the Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard with our friends the Moriellis. I am sitting on my mom’s lap in the background.

My dad would rent a house somewhere on the island – that in itself was an adventure. Some houses we got were great. Others? There’s a story of one house we rented when I was rather young that was infested with bugs. I got lost in the woods that summer too. That part I remember – I had followed our dog Alfie into the woods and before I knew it he was gone and I was surrounded by very tall trees. I can clearly remember looking up and seeing them tower over me – as if I were looking through a wide angle camera lens. My family found me eventually.

But when it came right down to it, the house didn’t matter all that much because we didn’t spend a whole lot of time there, especially when I was really young. Our typical day went like this; wake up, pack a lunch, head to the beach, stay there until 3 or so, head home, eat dinner and then walk/drive to town to shop or get ice cream.

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Driving in style on Chappaquiddick

They were blissfully long days filled with sand and sun and adventures that we just didn’t get to have in northern New Jersey. Take the photo above – the box attached to our station wagon was used to haul all of our luggage to the island – remember, us kids were sleeping in the back. But once it was emptied, it served as our penthouse view when we were on less populated areas of the island.

But there is a deeper element to our summers on the Vineyard that I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer to capture. Going there each year was both familiar and new. As the years would pass, things would change – a store you loved might have gone out of business, or a new restaurant would open and become a family favorite. It was constantly evolving as it gained popularity.

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The good house – I am the little thing in pink

Each summer, linked to a specific house we rented that year, holds it’s own set of memories. I can remember staying at an A-Frame house in the woods where my siblings and I invented the song “Bicycle Mary” inspired by a girl riding her bike down the dirt road. There was the beautiful pond-front home we got one summer (due to an error on our realtor’s part) where we could go crabbing right in our backyard. And there was the Amaral house, which had a pool table and was within easy walking distance to Edgartown. I think we rented that house three years in a row.

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You can’t climb on these cliffs anymore – but in our day it was nature’s jungle gym.

My memories are many and varied – it is impossible to put them all into one blog post. Going fishing with dad at 5 am and catching nothing but sea robins. Climbing the cliffs at Gay Head. My brother crashing our car hours before our ferry was to depart for the mainland. My sister Judy almost drowning and being saved by a handsome stranger. Trips to Chappaquiddick and the Dyke bridge. Half the family getting food poisoning from bad mussels at Giordanno’s. And hours and hours spent riding the Flying Horses carousel.

I always loved that carousel. Have you ever been on a carousel where you try to grab for the brass ring? It’s fun on several levels. The rings are metal, but the last one to come out is brass. If you get the brass ring, you get a free ride. As a kid I’d sit on the horse and let Dad grab the rings for me because my arms were to short to reach the holder. When was around 6 or so, my dad missed the brass ring and slammed his hand down on the horses head in frustration. Problem was, each horse is outfitted with a metal spike to hold your rings on. This spike went through my dad’s palm – we spent the next few hours in the parking lot outside the hospital.

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Me at the Flying Horses – circa 1982

But as a teenager, The Flying Horses was a place to meet guys and show off your ring grabbing skills. My sister was the best at it, but I could grab 5 or 6 rings each time around. The crowds that were waiting for their turn in line would ooh and ahh as you tried to snatch grab as many rings as you could. By the end of the first week my fingernails were ragged stubs, but I had caught the brass ring at least a dozen times.

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For years the foyer of The Island movie theater had this mini tribute to Jaws.

Then there was the summer 1975 – the summer of Jaws. Anyone who saw Jaws in the theater knew how scary it was back then. I saw it in the theaters – at the Island in Oak Bluffs to be exact. Do you have any idea how hard it was to swim on the same beach you saw Alex Kintner get chewed up into little bits on the big screen just the night before? The fame of the movie did ruin the island for a few years, though. Businesses who had changed their signs to read “Amity” whatever for the sake of the movie kept those signs up to lure customers. It became a little cheesy after a while – especially after Jaws 3 came out.

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See if you can guess what I am now…
A disrespectful teenager!

I did my fair share of hitch-hiking on the island too. Dangerous? I didn’t seem to be back then. My parents thought it was easier than having to drive me to and from town, especially when we rented a house that wasn’t in walking distance to civilization. I made friends that way too. Many of the folks who gave me rides were islanders and knew all the cool, unknown spots. That’s how I was able to find Belushi’s grave. It’s in a small cemetary up island, and the average Joe back then wouldn’t know where to look. I’m a tad ashamed of the above photo – sitting on someone’s tombstone isn’t exactly showing respect, but I was a dumb kid and wanted to be cool. Maybe it’s no accident that the photo is such crappy quality.

MV 6I went to Martha’s Vineyard for a week or more almost every summer until I was in my 20’s. I remember one year when I was living in Arkansas, my mom called and said they were getting ready to leave for the Vineyard in a day or two. I cried for a week knowing that they were up there and I couldn’t be with them. That might have been my first summer away from the Island.

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Edgartown Light House

Many times other families came up with us. Dad was always trying to convince someone to invest in a house with him, and I’ll never understand why nobody would. I bet they are all kicking themselves now. What you could buy for $60,000 back then is worth 10 times that now.  He did manage to cause a cousin of ours to fall in love with it. She and her husband now own two houses up there.

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The gingerbread cottages in Oak Bluffs

I’ve only been back to the Vineyard 3 times since getting married in 1994. The first time I was pregnant with my first born – we went up there to spread my mother’s ashes. We’ve brought our children up there twice since then, but the last time was too long ago; probably 6 years. We keep trying to plan a trip every summer, but something always goes wrong. Being unemployed doesn’t help – it’s super expensive to go there, even if you have family to stay with.

I really hope I make it back up there again. Yet, when we go up now, it’s a vacation too jam packed with activities we have to fit in before the week is up. I rarely get a glimpse of places and things I remember before it’s time to move on to the next photo op. And my husband? He doesn’t really get it, and that sort of detracts some of the joy for me.

MV 2I’d love to stay for a month, and take my time to retrace so many steps I’d taken over the first two decades of my life. A month…walking the streets of Edgartown, wandering along South Beach, maybe going topless at Gay Head. Oh, and I’d ride the Flying Horses over and over again. My fingers would bleed, but it would be worth it. I’d have caught life’s brass ring.

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Have you ever gone skinny dipping?

One summer on Martha’s Vineyard I was out with an islander dude I’d known for quite a few years. The night was hot and muggy, so we decided to go swimming, but not at the beach. We drove to a pond in the woods that only the locals seemed to know about. With the dark night air as our camouflage, we stripped down to our birthday suits and slipped into the cool, still water.

But skinny dipping in the dark is easy. Have you ever done it in broad daylight? Martha’s Vineyard has a section of beach that is clothing optional. While in my late teens and early twenties I was intrigued with the notion of laying on the beach completely nude – no tan lines, no sand in your bottoms. But the thought of being nude in public, and in broad daylight? The thought was unnerving to say the least.

But I did it. I walked so far down the beach that I was virtually alone. Every now and then some folks would walk by as I laid naked on my towel, but I’d just keep my head down and wait for them to pass by. I got used to them after a while. I have to admit that I enjoyed the experience.

Problem was, I was only on Martha’s Vineyard for a few weeks each summer. Where was I going to get my nude beach fix in New Jersey?

At Sandy Hook, of course! I cannot recall how I heard of Gunnison Beach, but when I got wind that there was a nude beach on the Jersey shore I had to give it a shot. I drove down on a Saturday morning – Sandy Hook is a rather large park, so I had to ask the ticket booth attendant which beach was clothing optional. It was embarrassing.

The parking lot for Gunnison beach was full. Hmmm, I guess you have to get here super early… it wasn’t even noon yet. I parked in the next available lot and walked dragging my chair and cooler and beach bag. Once you reached the beach, you had to walk another 1/4 mile or so to get to the nude part. I was beginning to wonder if this was worth it. Once I was knee deep in nudists, I dropped my stuff and set up camp.

This was different from the beach at Martha’s Vineyard. For one it was packed. There had to be a couple hundred people, all in various degrees of nudity, of all different shapes and sizes. On the Vineyard, you might see a dozen nudists over the span of 100 yards or so. But this beach? It was more like 100 people every dozen yards. All nude.

I didn’t stay all that long my first day. I kept getting hit on. I tried to ignore everyone by sticking my nose in a book while simultaneously blasting my Walkman (yes, Walkman – it was the 80’s), but greasy, repulsive dudes kept approaching me. And they approached me in a hard to ignore way. They would squat next to my sand chair, which would put their “junk” at right about eye level.

Ew. Time to pack up and leave.

This happened to me the next 2 or 3 times I went, until a group of regulars took me under their wing. They saw that I was relentlessly being bothered by every horn-bag on the beach and suggested I sit near them from now on. Seems when you are part of a larger group the pick-up artists leave you alone – Kind of like in the animal kingdom. The lone gazelle often falls prey to the predator – but there is safety in numbers.

After that I became a regular. I was up at 6 am on Saturday and Sunday, and on the beach no later than 8 or 9 depending on the traffic. I’d stay until 4 or 5 and drive the hour plus back up to my home. I rarely went totally nude – I preferred just going topless. But on a few occasions I did bare all, and was called “cotton tail” due to my very white fanny cheeks.

That beach was a tight knit community. They would berate gawkers – men who walked down the beach just to stare at boobs and butts, and if you weren’t a regular, using a camera was like a federal offense. I’ve seen a pack of naked men surround a gawker and demand his film. One guy tried to hide his camera inside a styrofoam cooler with a hole cut in it. His camera and his nose came close to being broken. I was a regular, so I could use my camera. I only have a few photos, but they certainly add some spice to my photo album!

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I left in a couple of fannies just to make it fun!

I was a regular for a few summers, and then I moved out of state. When I moved back I went a few more times, but the folks I knew had stopped going or just weren’t there when I was. Somehow it wasn’t as much fun sitting by myself, once again open to attack by the greasy, repulsive dudes who relentlessly prowl the beach.

If I weren’t such a lard-ass, I’d make it a point to go back. When I was young and thin, with boobs that still defied gravity, it was easy. Oh, there were women on the beach who looked like I do now, nude as the day they were born. But they are made of different stuff. I could never entertain the idea of even going topless at this point in my life.

But that’s okay. I did it then, and it was a blast.

 

Today I had to take my daughter to a birthday beach party being thrown by her 11 year old classmate. I was kind of not looking forward to it for a few reasons. For one, I had dragged the kids to hell and back yesterday and sort of wanted Sunday to myself. And secondly, my bathing suits and I are not on speaking terms yet, and the thought of parading around in my gigantic old lady swim dress in front of hoards of people I’ve never met was not particularly appealing to me.

Yet, my bright side took over and accentuated the positives. It’s a beautiful day, and I could be doing far worse on a Sunday afternoon than sitting in a beach chair reading a book while my child has a rip-roarin’ time in the lake. So, tossing my bathing suit aside, I put on some shorts and a cover up and headed to the designated beach.

We were among the first to arrive, and I set up my chair and got ready to read. But I never even got to crack open my book. Right away the birthday boy’s mom and her friend engaged me in conversation and put me right at ease. I was asked if I wanted to come up to the coolers to get a drink. Sure, my whistle could use some wetting.

The mom told us how she had water and lemonade in this cooler, and the adult drinks were in that other cooler. Huh? What? Adult drinks? At a kid’s party? Hell yes…my kind of people. The moms and I quickly popped open a can of Stella Artois into red Silo cups and headed back the our beach chairs.

The sun was hot and the kids were playing and I had a cold, imported beer in my cup. This day was looking up. Though the moms quickly abandoned me, I really didn’t mind. They were old friends whereas I was a newbie and more guests were arriving. I was happy to soak up the sun and watch the kids play.

It wound up being a great day. I had a few beers, ate a couple of hot dogs and got to talk to a few parents, one of which I adored, and exchanged numbers with. I also wound up getting wet, but for a very heroic cause.

One of the inner tubes got blown away by a gust of wind and landed in the lake past the ropes. I quickly walked over, threw my sunglasses on the dock and jumped in to save the straying flotation device. My mad breast stroke was no match to the wind and current, and before you knew it, I had snagged the tube. However, while I was swimming back towing the very large inner tube, I realized how hard my heart was beating.

Hmmmm. Yeah, I didn’t want to wear a bathing suit, which pretty much means I’ve put on a few pounds over the winter. A few more pounds to be totally frank. And here I am playing life saver to a fucking inner tube. As I tried to paddle to shore I wondered if 911 dispatch knew how to get to beach #4 at Lake Monticello.

There were at least two more times that one of those damn inner tubes jumped the rope and tried to escape. But I let them float away while others swam after them. And you know what? Every parent that had to swim after it came back huffing and puffing, so I didn’t feel so bad.

When we left I had an invite from the birthday boy’s mom to come to taco night and had exchanged phone numbers with another set of parents. Here I began the morning dreading putting on a bathing suit, but all in all, it wound up being a pretty good day.

Once again the powers that be taught me to shut up, smile and let the day unfold.

Yesterday we wasted a day of our vacation taking care of business. We hit a bunch of cheesy shops and the arcade on the boardwalk of Daytona beach.  I had been trying to find new sunglasses all week, and had finally found a pair at a good, cheap souvenir shop yesterday –  only $9.99. Chaching! Ring ’em up.

Today, being the last day we could really hit the ocean, I slapped in a pair of disposable contact lenses, adjusted my new shades, and headed to Flagler Beach. The waves were really good – perfect boogie boarding conditions. After slathering on a liberal amount of #50 suntan lotion and lecturing my girls about the dangers of waves this big (accompanied by eye rolls), we headed out into the water.

My oldest decreed the water to be too cold and promptly headed back to the chairs and umbrella. I ran up and got the spare boogie board and decided to hit the waves with my youngest. I thought, screw it…it’s our last beach day.

Munchkin got a good wave right away and rode it all the way into the shore. I tried one of the subsequent waves and also was rewarded with a tasty trip to the sand. This was awesome!

It brought me back to my summers on Martha’s Vineyard, where as a 10 year old, like my daughter is, I would body surf at South Beach until it was time to head home. I never left the water. I had my fair share of battles with the ocean too…I got bamboozled at least 3 times a day.

But today, having a boogie board made me a tad too confident. I headed out far enough into the surf where the waves were breaking – 3-4 feet above my head. I saw one approaching, got into position to ride the crest to the shore in true Spicoli fashion and then realized something.

I was going to get smashed by this wave. I was not going to shoot the curl or hang ten. I was going to get bamboozled but good. Just like those days on the Vineyard.

It hit me and immediately shoved me under. As I tumbled like a sock in the spin cycle under the salty ocean, my brain repeated to my panicked body, “keep cool…it’ll stop in a second and you can stand up.”

And it did stop. I got my footing and stood up. Boobs still in suit? Check. Boogie Board? Oh, there it is. Check. Brand new sunglasses?

Ruh Roh. MIA.

Fuck. Not even 24 hours in my possession, and they are gone already. I took a quick look around, but with the ocean this rough there is zero chance that those bargain basement shades are going to tumble past me in the surf.

I stagger up the beach to my family and ask if anyone had witnessed my colossal fight with the ocean. Nobody had. My niece said, “hey your knee is bleeding.”

I look down and sure enough there is a quarter sized scrape on my knee that is oozing blood. Great. As if I didn’t look bad enough in shorts.

As I’m describing the event to my family, I realize everything looks a tad funky. I close my left eye….vision clear. I close my left eye…ruh roh #2. Vision blurry. I gently massage my eye trying to push the obviously dislodged contact lens back into place, but I soon realize that I have also lost my lens to the sea.

Great. Sunglass-less, bleeding and blind. On the beach. Our last day at the beach.

So what’s a girl to do. I sucked it up and hung out at the ocean for a few more hours with kooky vision. Then we came home, I put on my glasses, and played a killer pool volleyball match, where I realized I can still spike and block, even in the deep end.

I’m tan/burnt and half ready to go home, but at one point during this vacation, I felt like a 10 year old kid again…. tumbling and turning 6 inches under the water.

This is where we sat, but the pier is under renovation

We spent the last full day of our vacation on the beaches of Daytona. Knowing we had a lot to accomplish while at the beach, we left the house by 10 am, which is really early for my little family. We got to Daytona and quickly found parking right by the pier. After securing our spot in the sand with umbrella, towels and chairs, we headed for the water.

The first part of our day went like this. Lube up kids with lotion. Realize we are out of lotion. Walk to store to buy overpriced replacement bottle of lotion. Lube up mom & dad. Head to water. Unsuccessfully boogie board. Head back to towel to read.

By now, with the lure of rides and arcades, kids get bored with the “stupid ocean” and need more a stimulating activity. I take them to the arcade. They use $5 worth of quarters in approximately 7 minutes. I say no more money and we head back to the “stupid ocean.”

Shortly there after we decide to have lunch. We get some bad pizza and good onion rings and I glance at the clock. To my utter amazement the time is 1:45! Have we really been at the beach for 3 hours already? We are supposed to be back at my dads by 4:00 to get ready for our farewell Slovak dinner of pork, cabbage and dumplings!

The girls and I hurriedly look at some goofy shops that actually kind of grossed me out. What idiot would want to buy a beach towel bedecked with a topless genie girl? Who needs to drink out of a nipple cup that says “Daytona Beach!” on it? Dad and the girls opted for ice cream and we went back to the beach.

Before we knew it, it was time to leave. Usually, a day at the beach really drags on for me. I guess it’s because there is nothing but sun and water and waves and more sun and water and waves. But when you add in arcades and pizza and rides and shopping the hours fly by.

We got back to my dads a little late, and as I sat down to dinner, I felt as if my last day of vacation was robbed from me. It went by too fast. There were things we didn’t get to do, and now we are left with no time to do them.

On the bright side, our dinner was great, and sitting around talking and reminiscing with my dad and my sister was loads of fun. And now I turn my attention to heading back home. I’ve got laundry to do, and packing to finish and then the long drive home.

Home, where my two darling kitties are hopefully waiting for me.

So the girls and I bid a fond adieu to the beach for the day and went to see the final Harry Potter movie. I’ve seen every frame of Potter on screen, but I’ve never read the books. My favorite of the whole series is number two for some reason, but these last two were really quite good.

The kids didn’t finish their candy while at the theater, so a box of gummy watermelons and Raisinettes went into my purse. We then had an early dinner with my father and his wife, got back into the car and headed to Daytona Beach for the evening.

My sister was playing with her band at a local restaurant, but it was still early, so we took the kids to the amusements on the boardwalk to play some arcade games and ride the go-karts. My youngest had been jabbering all day about the go-karts; she was DYING to get behind the wheel of one of those speed demons, and I for one wanted to shut her up.

It was great watching them cruise around the track… unfortunately for the other riders my youngest was out in front and was, for lack of a better word, the pace car. She was traveling at a modest clip and nobody could seem to pass her. I guess I should feel bad for the other riders, but everyone got out safe and sound which is what matters in my book.

After their first ride, we went to play some ski-ball and other arcade games. I noticed I had a smudge of chocolate on my white shirt which really annoyed me because I had just finished a spaghetti dinner where I managed to miraculously not get one drop of marinara sauce on me. Trying to figure out where the smudge came from lead me to root around my purse.

It was then I discovered the empty box of Raisinettes.  Empty. And then I see them. Sitting at the bottom of my purse, like little movie theater turds, were no less than 30 half melted raisinettes. Enter the expletive of your choice here.

I summoned my girls for help – we took everything out of my bag, checked them for chocolate and laid them on  stools in front of the slot machines. I then had to scoop out the melted raisins and wanted to wipe it out good with some paper towels. As luck would have it, the bathrooms had no paper towels – just the air blowers. Grrrr! I managed to get a “Visit Daytona!” brochure to line the bottom of my purse with.

I had less pep in my step after that. I was hot, chocolatey, sweaty and ready to go. I sat miserably watching my kids go round and round the go-kart track one last time for the night and wondered where I can get myself a new purse.

You guys keep the sharks away, right?

After two consecutive days in the water and sun, my family and I decided to not spend the entire day at the beach and opted to go for an hour or two in the morning.

Well, that was before some unexpected company showed up.

We arrived at Flagler Beach at around 10 am or so and enjoyed over an hour of your general Atlantic Ocean horseplay – I even managed to body surf a bit with the use of a borrowed too-small for me boogie board.

I then told my husband that we should probably think about packing it up soon, and sat down to read my book. I knew it would take him and the girls a full 15 or 20 minutes to tear themselves away from the ocean. I was awakened from my reading induced coma a few minutes later by the sound of my oldest daughter calling out to me. Upon looking up, I saw an empty ocean, with throngs of people standing on the shore and pointing their fingers. It was then I saw them.

DOLPHINS!

Not just one, but a pack of four! I grabbed my camera, and ran down the beach. I shot some decent footage of my family in the foreground and the dolphins in the background. After I shot enough tape to satisfy the National Geographic, I walked the camera back up to our blankets, grabbed a boogie board and headed for the ocean. I did not want this opportunity to pass by with me holding a camera. I wanted to get OUT there!

I was afraid that the dolphins would leave before I had a chance to get into the water. Plus I was dragging two boogie boards with me. I waded out into the ocean and was in the middle of telling my oldest to grab a boogie board when a huge wave came and knocked the boards out of my hands. Shit. I then had to turn around and chase the boards that were floating back to shore. What a waste of my time! Why wasn’t anyone in my family helping me? Oh that’s right! They are watching dolphins! Let mommy chase down the boogie boards she thoughtfully brought for them!

It was no easy task I can tell you that. As soon as I’d get close to the board, a wave would come in and push it further towards the shore. Grrr! Once both boards were in my clutches, I waded back out into the ocean. I have to admit I purposefully steered clear of my family. I was a bit miffed that they didn’t bother to help me, so I hogged both boogie boards until one of them swam over to me to get it.

This man from Brooklyn and I were the farthest ones out when suddenly a dolphin popped up about 10 feet away from me! It was so thrilling! My youngest swam out to me after that on her board and we floated around watching their fins popping up out of the water here and there, closer and then farther away. It was hard to see them at times because the waves would bob you up and down and you could only see them when the waves had you up high. At one point we bobbed up and there was a dolphin fin around 7 feet away from us!

It actually scared my 9 year old who can only equate fins with sharks. I told her it was fine, and that dolphins help keep sharks away from us – I don’t know if that’s an old wives tale or what, but she felt considerably better after that, so who cares.

And then they just swam away. It was great though. We had roughly 35 minutes with them and it was free of charge. No Marineland or Sea World fee to pay – just dolphins in the wild and a bunch of awestruck humans.

The one bad thing? The hour we meant to spend at the beach turned into almost 3 hours. My face and shoulders are pretty burned, and to make matters worse I had my big black sunglasses on the whole time, so I now resemble a sunburned raccoon. Oh, and my nose looks like a plum.

But it’s sooooo worth it. My kids and I will remember that experience forever.