As one of our sons said when looking at the group picture from our annual beach week “ Where did all the little kids go?”. As the proud mother /grandmother I can say they are grown into some pretty awesome people.
Having a problem with water in my ear and not finding my bathing cap to be effective ear protection this is the first year I didn’t do more with the water than just stand at its edge or just gaze at its raw beauty. We were treated almost daily to a dolphin display getting a partial glimpse of their bodies as they displayed their awesome water skills. And then one day in a truly magical moment a dolphin flung itself totally and briefly out of the water. It was a God feeling moment . Can’t get enough of them!!!
Beach Week is our family tradition that just evolved with no thought of making it happen. . Both my husband and I love the ocean and even as young parents with a growing family – five children born in six years – and money tight – we always made time for the beach.
Certain routines have become institutions for beach week. Individual families bring their own breakfast and lunch foods but we all gather together for dinner. Each family unit takes a turn fixing dinner for all – it can be a bit hectic when you are charged with providing dinner for 29 – 32 folks but it is only one night and then how relaxing when your turn is done.
The grandchildren range in age from 12 to 26 , 10 girls and 9 boys. We are blessed with two special needs grandchildren, both teenage boys, one turned 15 in June – he has Down Syndrome – and the other with autism will be 16 in September. Both boys have a special communion with the ocean water – it is hard to get them out of it at days end. We have learned so much from these boys about what really counts in life. Sure at times it can be hard on their parents but there are also some very joyful times, and some ordinary times which is actually the story of all parenting. And I may be full of grandmotherly bias but the siblings and the cousins of these boys are extraordinarily kind and caring.
We usually rent four places to stay, and the families divide up. As the grandkids get older we do not expect them to make it each year but we are touched at the lengths they go to be part of this family tradition. This year one grandchild came from Serbia – two from California, one from Ohio , the rest from mid Atlantic states.
In addition to time in the ocean, there is biking , beach walking , soccer, bocce ball, and crossword puzzle solving. For the cousins and siblings who haven’t seen one another in many months there is also lots of catching up. When the tide is coming in there are sand walls to be built: a project that various ages participate in with varying degrees of enthusiasm. And every year we take a group picture. There is always a bit of a sigh of relief when that is successfully accomplished – sometimes a” fussy” grandmother is hard to please – she wants the “perfect” picture.
Also we have political discussions. In a family of our size one might expect quite a bit of variation in political beliefs. But, that is not the case. Our beliefs are very similar. Some of the children and grandchildren are quite active politically. The only politically touchy time is with those who feel that discussing the present occupant of the White House puts a negative cast on our special time together – we try and honor those feelings.
One night is what we call family talent night and those who want to participate are warmly encouraged. This year it was on Thursday night , the next to last night of our beach week. The grandson who came in from Ohio brought his keyboard with him and shared with us music he wrote. It was amazing. There was singing and guitar playing. My husband enjoys singing. One of his best activities is singing with the children and granddchildren. This talent night ended with a precious granddaughter leading us in “Down to the river to pray” . Since most all knew the words it was awesome. I cried. It was such a fitting ending to the evening.
Who knows how long this family tradition will continue? This is the first year I found myself asking myself this question – as so many of our friends have fallen prey to bad health and are not in the position to take on the loving task of organizing something like a beach week. It all goes back to enjoying each day – embracing its joys and challenges – not focusing too much on the what ifs of life