While watching my all-time favorite show, Mad Men, I was struck by the ending scene where the protagonist is wading into the ocean (in the case of the tv show it was the Pacific).
I've always loved the ocean; so many of my childhood memories and feelings are tied up in our annual trips to the beach. For as far back as I can really remember (and what I can't remember I have evidenced in pictures), my family vacationed for one week a year during July-August in Anna Maria Island, Gulf of Mexico, Florida. We always stayed at the same motel, which was just a small collection of rooms; not the big hotel condominiums that you might be imagining.
If I could describe nirvana or heaven or the perfect peace, I would tell you about my vacations to Anna Maria Island. The whole summer was built upon the anticipation of piling in our little family car (we never had a big car; my parents drove a Ford Tempo or a Mazda 4-door low level model); all we packed was a bunch of beach towels and plastic floats and perhaps a few shirts and shorts. All the apartments had full kitchens; after we checked in, then Mom and I would drive to the supermarket and stock up on sandwich meat and basics for the week. This was the only time I loved grocery shopping (usually Mom had to drag me with her on her ritual Saturday morning shopping at home). Somehow, this grocery store was cooler than the one at home; after all, I could wear my bathing suit and flip flops to this grocery store and feel right at home.
The smell of the ocean and of Coppertone sunscreen would send me flying out of the apartment as soon as possible. The motel had a pool, and we would divide our time between the pool and the ocean. We were never afraid of the ocean water; I loved the way my skin felt after I got of the ocean - the salt sticking to my skin.
We would wake up so early! Mom would go out early mornings and walk down the beach looking for shells. We would eat breakfast together and Dad and I would work the Word Jumble Puzzle (our local paper didn't carry this - just another reason to love the beach). We would spend most of the morning out but around 12:30 to 2:00, we would pack it in because it was just too hot to be outside. We would eat lunch and then nap (because swimming all morning makes you tired). Around 3:00, we would get our second wind, my brother and I would go to the ocean and dig for the small bivalve shells. You could scoop up the sand and see them; then they would push out their slimy foot to start digging back into the sand. We would wade out with my mom to the sandbar that usually formed and hunt for sand dollars. We never went back to the apartment until it got dark.
Dinner was usually very casual; but we would go out to eat at least once during our week visit. There were two restaurants we would routinely visit - Fast Eddie's (whose motto was Warm Beer, Lousy Food) or Pete Renard's (who had a room with a revolving floor!). There was strip mall down the road and we would visit the gift shops to pick up little gifts for our friends and mementos of our trip (like a pooka shell necklace).
My parents would take a walk down the beach at night, sometimes my brother and I would join them, but sometimes not. When I think about this, I allow myself to believe that perhaps they were reconnecting on some romantic level. Fights between them were non-existent during this week; but at home, there were lost weekends, especially for my mother, where they would not speak to each other from Friday night to Monday morning.
It was during this time at the beach that I feel so connected to my parents and my brother. We seemed to share so much by just swimming together or laying on a beach towel or blanket reading books. The motel had a bookshelf in the lobby where they collected books and you could borrow or take or donate. I loved this bookshelf - it's where I first learned about romance novels. I gobbled those up one summer.
I feel so far away from that person I was during those trips; perhaps I can never recreate that sense of security and wholeness and peace. My life is so much about the littlest, tiniest bullshit now. I deal in minutiae and I get stressed because some (in the big picture) insignificant mistake has occurred. I have no control anymore; I've given into the stress of something that will not matter in 24 months or 24 days or 24 hours.
I really feel disconnected from my current life; I'm missing some type of meaningful existence or some sense of relaxation and calm. If I manage to get back to the beach, can I make a significant change in my life - will it be the answer I'm looking for?
Thanks for sharing. I personally think its time to get back to Anna Maria Island. While there is no Fast Eddie's anymore I think you will find that the island still embraces a simpler life. I bet you will find what is really important on another visit to Anna Maria Island. If you need help with economical stays look me up...www.IslandReal.com - I think the best time to visit the island is in the early FALL. Take care and thanks for sharing your wonderful family stories. Larry
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