I hate the last day of vacation, the exquisite pain of sitting on the beach for the last time, the last morning latte, the last evening vodka tonic. Long ago, my sister and I worked the last day lather into a fine art, and at this point I’d almost rather not go at all than experience the agony of knowing it’s over for another year.
I gobbled half my book this afternoon on the beach, while no one was looking, and another hunk on the couch while the kids watched Madagascar. It’s a great book — Jesus Land, a memoir, spectactular writing — but the worst thing I could have read on a day I was hiding from reality. (Truly depressing, engrossing stuff. I looked up from it at one point, surrpised to find myself in a room of kids wielding Magic Markers and Cheetos.) But I was determined to get some reading in; old habits die hard.
It’ll never be the same as it was, this vacation, pre-kids. As I write, Ray and our brother in law Jonathan are discussing that very topic in the kitchen. “The kids are older this year,” Jonathan said. “I think that’s why we got to do more stuff we wanted to do.”
(Speak for yourselves, dudes!)
I’m waiting for the year Sophie will be independent. Scratch that. She’s very independent. I mean RESPONSIBLY independent, like her cousin Kate, who’s 6 weeks older and light years ahead. Kate can climb the stairs alone to go to the room to pee. She can find her way back from the pool, run down the beach without getting lost or making inappropriate friends. She holds her own with Annabelle in a way Sophie surely does not and I secretly worry never will.
More exquisite pain, watching the cousins play.
We’ve come so far from Sophie’s first year on the beach. I still can’t believe we brought her then, complete with a feeding tube up the nose and a pump that fed her automatically all night long, beeping loudly to announce it had run dry. Each time we hooked up the pump, we had to push air up the tube to make sure it hadn’t slipped into her lung, where it would drown her.
This year was the best, so far. Both girls played so well on the beach, splashing in the waves with confidence I’ve never shown. And Sophie’s doing so well. I really can’t complain; or I shouldn’t. She’s next to me right now, playing charades. Not bad.
But she did require a lot of attention this trip, enough that it was necessary to bring our dear friend Abbie along as a nanny. And even Abbie, the most energetic, mature 13 year old I’ve ever known — who loves Sophie about as much as any human being can love another one — grew weary with the constant pressure of caring for our little wind-up toy.
And tomorrow, it’s back to reality for real — way less than a month to kindergarten. The countdown begins.
Tonight, time was still suspended. I ignored everyone else’s efforts at packing and stared at the beach, memorizing it, as we downed our last meal, a mixed grill, to put it politely: a week’s worth of leftovers, all thrown on the BBQ.
The gods had a good time at our expense — high tide was timed just wrong, sending sand flies zooming past our heads for the whole meal. Last night we stayed out way past dark; Ray played the guitar; it was magical.
Tonight, it was itchy.
It’s time to go home.