We're back from the beach after a much needed break. Santa Rosa was our destination, a powdery white beach in Northwest Florida, on the Gulf.
This was our family's first real beach trip. I'd taken Nate to Clearwater, where I grew up, and we'd spent time on its sands in between visiting relatives and doing other things, and we'd been to Pensacola Beach, where Shane spent part of his childhood. But we'd never done the "we're going to the beach" thing as a vacation.
So, when Shane's brother Mark and sister-in-law Terry were kind to invite us to stay with them at their beach house, we were thrilled to take them up on it. Once there, we realized why all our friends and the rest of the world who lives anywhere near The Emerald Coast chooses it for their vacation.
I guess I took the power of a beach vacation for granted. Having grown up ten minutes from the beach, the Gulf's waves and powder white sands are part of my DNA. But, jus as my New York parents never went to the Statue of Liberty until we were children, the real allure of the beach didn't crystallize in me until now, at nearly 35, as I return with my child.
Sure, I've loved visiting in bursts, and on those trips to Clearwater I loved to be reminded of how floating in the Gulf washes away the stress and confusion that I didn't have when I was a small child doing the same thing. Redemptive power of being wrapped in its rhythms. But, since we take for granted what we know, so did I.
In vacations I've gone on a mad dash to pack in in the sights of places far away -- eating suckling pig in the Castilian countryside, drinking bitter ouzo on the island of Corfu. The more the better of journeys packed with checking items off the list -- museum seeing, check, bargain hunting, check. (Even when in decidedly more domestic locations, it's always been about packing it in.)
And though I still love cramming all that in on a vacation, this time I realized why people go the other route -- staking an umbrella in the sand, staring at the Gulf for hours on end, and breathing in its heady salt air.
Not to say that I wasn't tempted to get off the beach chair and go check out everything in town and in every town nearby. It's also the reporter's itch. But I wasn't working (in fact, this was the first time I did not check my work email for nearly a week). So I sat back, read an actual book ("The Paris Wife") and judged what to do next by the position of the sun, not by Google calendar alerts. (I did send a few Tweets and Instagram photos and Facebook messages, but not nearly to the extend that I usually do.)
I did get to hang out with my sister and brother in law, which we rarely do, even though we're just two and a half hours away. And commune with tiny fishes that brushed my feet while I drifted in the water. And eat fresh Gulf shrimp, sending up a silent prayer for their existence a year after the massive oil spill that threatened this way of life. My sister in law cooked these, and we ate them with Andouille sausage brought over that day from New Orleans by their good friends Kevin and Aline.
Later we sat on the roof overlooking the water and Shane pointed out the constellations. We shared secrets.
Nate swam hard, alternating between the beach and pool. Here he is with his new friend Tyler.
And, on the last day of the trip, Nate swam in the Gulf unassisted -- the first time ever. Glad that this milestone happened in its waters, where I once and continue to learn things myself.
I am hooked. I'll be back.
For the complete set of photos from our trip, click here.