After a year of pandemic craziness in education, summer break had arrived in late June. Discomforted by the peace and quiet, Laura and I opted for some self-inflicted home renovation craziness, this time of the kitchen. The remodel would begin while we were on vacation, creating the dilemma of departing for the beach on the same morning we were emptying all of the kitchen cabinets, protecting furniture from construction dust, packing a car at 6am for the beach, while not killing an 11-year-old screen-zombie “helper.” Laura came up with the brilliant idea of using some of our credit card points to get a hotel room on the way to the beach so that we could leave Friday afternoon instead of Saturday.
When I made the hotel reservation, our new kitchen cabinets were supposed to be delivered within one of those ridiculous 10 hour delivery windows, so we didn’t think we could get all the way to a hotel on the Outer Banks on Friday, especially if the cabinets weren’t delivered until the evening. Rocky Mount in North Carolina was fairly close to home AND had the best deals for hotels on the way, so I grabbed a place there. As it turned out, the cabinet delivery window was delayed until the next week, so we ended up leaving home about 3 to 4 hours ahead of schedule, giving us an abundance of time to explore Rocky Mount. Unfortunately, Rocky Mount can be fully explored in approximately 17 minutes.
With hours of daylight left on Friday, we knew we were in trouble when Laura asked our waitress at dinner for the best place to get ice cream in Rocky Mount, and the waitress replied, “Dairy Queen.” Now, given our family’s history of brawling with locals defending the honor of Dairy Queen from critical assessments of the restaurant’s lack of fun, I don’t want to risk the ire of Rocky Mount’s inhabitants by insulting their best ice cream place, especially since Rocky Mounters know full well from the visitor’s bureau’s maps that they are a short 2.15 hours from visiting retribution on me. Suffice it to say that the waitress’ ice cream scouting report was alarming enough that it prompted Laura to hatch a plan to get McKenna and her cousin Tabby to go to sleep at 8pm by drugging them with Melatonin so that we could leave Rocky Mount at the crack of dawn on Saturday.
On the plus side, the Visitor’s Bureau of Rocky Mount correctly identified a highlight of their city: that it was close to the beach. We made it to Buxton on Hatteras Island in time to get a full beach day on Saturday.
The beach trip was the first time since before the pandemic started that they whole family could get together. Now that the adults were getting older and the kids were reaching the right age to learn, it was time to pass on some family beach traditions to the younger generation. Stephen took the lead in instructing the youngest kids to play bocce the Abbott way.
In Stephen’s defense, as a the youngest of five boys, the instruction he received in bocce was both more violent and more profane. Describing a throw as merely “terrible” could even be seen as positive reinforcement.
It may be that the children’s bocce incompetence will have no long-running consequences because a family investigation one evening uncovered breaking news: the island may be shrinking.
Another family tradition that we reinforced in the trip is the Kyle Memorial Ice Cream Sundae Night. To avoid ice-cream related public tantrums by the children and Dairy Queen brawls by the adults, we organize a Sundae Night at the beach house; all meltdowns and fights are therefore kept mercifully private. This year, Sundae Night was enhanced by a Sundae kit found by Katie at Costco. The kit was so perfect for our ice cream night that you had to be suspicious that it was constructed based on Amazon Echo surveillance.
We supplemented the sundae kit with essential toppings like Reece’s Sauce and butterscotch. The kids then added things like gummy bears to butterscotch, fudge, and sprinkles with a reckless and unconscionable disregard for which flavors complement other flavors. Nevertheless…
Another family tradition that we modified this year was my dad’s Beach Patrol. This year, dad could cut short his patrol, which consisted of him pacing on the beach in order to calculate which of the children would be sucked out to sea first, due to the unusually calmness of the ocean for most of the week. Most days the riptide was non-existent.
In an almost unprecedented move, Beach Patrol was even suspended for almost an hour on Thursday.
We were especially fortunate because the calm, riptide free water beyond the breakers was paired with good-sized waves.
The waves broke so smoothly that even the younger generation could boogie board. Kind of.
Mom’s birthday usually falls during the beach vacation, and, despite the pandemic, we were going to honor all birthday traditions, by God.
Now that we were all cross-contaminated anyway, we gathered for the traditional group photo. Even with a dozen children and several childish adults, we almost got the picture right the first time, which would have been a July miracle. But Archer leaned forward just out of the shot.
The failed group picture meant that we would have to repose the shot, provoking emotions ranging from anger, to disbelief, to crippling depression in most of the adults and even in some of the children.
But remembering about how much there was to live for since we weren’t in Rocky Mount on a Friday night, we bounced back from the disappointment and pushed forward to success.