There’s Always a Wave

Saturday to Wednesday: We Relax (and Kind of Lose Track of What Happened When)

Noah and I were walking along the beach near the waterline on Tuesday, the third day of our spring break trip to Rehoboth. It was a chilly, overcast, drizzly day and I was wearing rubber boots but his feet grow too quickly for us to keep him in rain boots so said feet, only inches from the forty-odd degree water, were encased only in sweat socks and crocs.  (Any idea where this is heading?)

Actually it’s not just his feet—all of him is growing quickly, as adolescent boys will. He’s been taller than me since Thanksgiving and he will be taller than Beth soon. Earlier that day I’d taken him to Café A Go-Go for a strawberry-banana Jumex and a slice of coconut cake and the proprietor, who has watched Noah grow up from a preschooler, said, “I saw him last summer and he wasn’t like that.” She wanted to know how old he was and on hearing he’s almost thirteen, she said, “I don’t know how that happens,” shaking her head slightly as if she disapproved of children turning into teenagers. I said it might be because I kept feeding him.

On the beach, Noah started walking backwards and the wind blew his shaggy hair back from his face. “Tell me if there’s a wave,” he requested.

“There’s always a wave,” I said. And soon there was one and I didn’t warn him quickly enough and his feet were underwater.

“Nothing to fear now,” he said, and strode into the water up to his knees, not even bothering to roll up his pants.  June had been wading in the water earlier but in bare feet and with her pants hiked up, on Sunday and Monday, the two warmest days we had, in her bathing suit.

The week started out sunny and warm and then changed over to rainy and then sunny again, but now chilly and quite windy.  On Tuesday night there was freezing rain and we woke the next morning to frost and ice on the grass and rooftops. My Facebook posts started to take the form of weather reports:

Monday: Steph knows you might not immediately believe her if she says it was a beautiful day at the beach today because she’s never been to the beach when it wasn’t a beautiful day, but honestly it was the kind of day you might think was a beautiful day–low seventies, big waves glinting the sunlight–and Steph does prefer that to mid-thirties and sleeting (as it was last spring break).

Tuesday: Steph had fewer companions on the beach this rainy day, but they included both of her children, a half dozen surfers, and a few dolphins.

Wednesday: Steph, over the course of the past 23 years, has been on the Rehoboth boardwalk at all times of the day and night, in all seasons, and all kinds of weather and has very rarely been alone there, but this morning at 8:20, she and June had its sunny, sparkly, ice-slicked boards to themselves. (By 9, it was full of puddles and people.)

The first several days of our stay, we had no ambitious agenda. Noah was tired and burned out from a challenging school year. Although his workload did decrease after IDRP and National History Day, his energy never rebounded and his processing speed issues have seemed worse recently even with less homework to do. With luck, a restful break will help him recuperate. Relaxing at the house and taking short trips to the beach seemed to be what he needed and the rest of us were happy enough to do the same, as long as there were enough outings to keep June busy. (She also kept herself busy. After a trip to play mini-golf, she created her own course on the front porch and then organized an awards ceremony, based on our performance.)

Noah did have some long-term projects for school he could have worked on over break but he didn’t want to, and we decided he needed a break more than anything, so other some minimal homework he completed during the first few days (never working more than two hours a day) and studying the capital cities of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean most days for fifteen minutes or less, he had the week off.  And Beth, who often takes working vacations, also worked very little, just one morning plus a couple of calls.

It turns out what Noah does when he’s not working is spend a lot of time in his room, which we dubbed the “boy cave,” with the shades drawn, reading, playing games or watching videos or listening to podcasts on various electronic devices. Beth read a lot, too, took a couple solo bike rides, and got a massage. She also took one or both of the kids to the arcade and to play mini-golf twice. (June won a set of jacks at the arcade and so I played jacks for the first time since my younger sister was around June’s age and we used to play together, back in the late seventies.)

When he wasn’t holed up in his room, Noah played Crazy Eights, Roundabouts, and Battleship with June (the last one electronically on separate devices in different rooms, because why play a game with your sister face to face when you could do it in adjacent rooms?) He and June filmed a sequel to June Bird Discovery, a faux nature documentary they made two years ago. June plays the bird; Noah is the narrator.

Noah and I finished The Martian Chronicles and started And Then There Were None. I also read part of How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse to June and on the rare occasion both kids felt like being read to at the same time, we read from High Wire, book 5 in the Edgar and Ellen series. We all watched the first Harry Potter movie over the course of two or three evenings and after June was in bed, we watched an episode from our DVD of The Carol Burnett Show, which Noah enjoys more than June does.

I got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with each kid, taking them to Candy Kitchen, the beach or one rainy day on shopping trips for Mother’s Day gifts for my mother and Beth, and for June’s birthday present for Noah.

We ate out a lot, at least one meal each day and sometimes more. I think we were indulging Noah, who likes to eat out, or maybe we were just trying to make sure he left the house occasionally.

Of course, I went to the beach at least a couple times a day, with and without the kids. June and I bought new sand toys on our first morning at the boardwalk 5 & 10 and made sand castles, collected seashells, and waded in the frigid water. I buried her in the sand multiple times at her request. Also on the first day, I took Noah to Browse-About and we each bought new books, which we took to the beach and read side by side. I took beach walks with both kids and by myself. Once I saw a strange bird—duck-shaped but perhaps a bit bigger, black with a bright orange beak. It was floating on the waves and diving under them and bobbing back into sight. My friend Heidi says it might have been a double-crested cormorant. June and I also saw a few dolphins, one quite close, and at least half out of the water.

Other than eating out and going to the beach, I spent a lot of time buying books at Browse-About. I got The Crying of Lot 49, which we’re reading at book club next month, The Book Thief and Divergent, because I’ve been wanting to read them. I bought The Kill Order (from the Maze Runner series) for Noah as an early birthday present, and if you are one of the people whom I mentioned shopping for, it’s possible you might be receiving a book.  But not all of you will. See how I keep the suspense alive?  All in all, I bought ten books in four trips. It’s so nice being in a town with a brick-and-mortar bookstore, as there hasn’t been one in Takoma for about fifteen years and the Borders in Silver Spring closed a few years ago as well—I couldn’t restrain myself.

Thursday: We Enjoy Nature

Late in the week we went on a couple family outings. In preparation, I took the kids to the T-shirt Factory on Thursday morning where they picked out hoodies and decals to apply to them because it was still cold and neither of them had a warm enough jacket and we were going on a hike that day. June choose a fluorescent green hoodie and a decal with wild horses on the beach. Noah got a lizard and the words “Rehoboth Beach” on gray in an adult medium. Adult medium, people! It’s a good thing we didn’t tell María at Café a Go-Go. We’d come to the t-shirt shop straight from breakfast at a diner, where Noah built pyramids out of butter packages and creamer containers, just as he did when he was a little boy. I was amused by this juxtaposition and a little glad he’s not all the way grown up yet.

Thus outfitted, we hiked the Burton Island Trail in Delaware Seashore State Park. The trail winds through a sandy path in a pine forest and over boardwalks in a salt marsh. Beth and I saw egrets and a great blue heron in the water, a treeful of orioles and an osprey circling overhead. There were horseshoe crab shells everywhere and the gravel causeway near the trailhead was littered with newly broken clamshells, remnants of some seabirds’ all-you-can-eat buffet.

The kids walked far ahead of us, occasionally waiting for us to catch up, but then dashing off before we quite closed the gap. As a result, they missed all the wildlife, unless you count the still-hinged clamshell Beth picked up to show June, but they seemed to enjoy the trail and the independence of taking a hike basically alone.

Friday: We Enjoy Culture

Friday, our last full day, we opted for civilization over nature, in the form of Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum on the Ocean City boardwalk. We last visited this attraction two years ago the terrifying day we lost the children for a half hour on the boardwalk (“Wild, Wild Horses” April 9, 2012). This time, though, we did not lose them. We spent about an hour taking in the sights and saying things like, “But why would you want to paint two Presidents’ portraits on the wings of a stuffed bat?” and admiring a reproduction of a painting of a woman with a water jar made by lining up pieces of burnt toast and scraping off the dark parts for shading. June was irritated at me for yanking her away from the gruesome shark attack video.

This year we sprung for combination tickets to enter the mirror maze as well. Beth and I insisted we all stay together and we were out more quickly than I thought we’d be. Part of the illusion of all the mirrors, of course, is that the dimly lit vaulted passageways appear much longer than they really are. Noah worked out a system based on the angle of his reflections and soon we were out, but not before a confused moment in which June said, “Wait, which one is the real Noah?”

That afternoon Beth and June went to see a nature documentary about bears, while Noah and I read, and then I napped and walked on the beach. We had dinner at Grotto. June didn’t want much of her pizza and one bite into her gelato she began to cry, saying she felt sick. I was afraid it might be a migraine, but she said no it was her stomach. We took her home, where a warm bath seemed to soothe her. Beth diagnosed over-eating. Between the boardwalk in Ocean City and the movie theater, there had been a lot of treats that afternoon.

I took another long walk on the boardwalk and beach after June was in bed, feeling more melancholy about than usual about leaving the beach. That night, when I said goodnight to Noah he noted the rental house was for sale and suggested we buy it and never go home.

Saturday: We Depart, Reluctantly

The next morning, while we were packing up the house I asked Beth what time she wanted to leave Rehoboth and she said, “Never.”  We did leave, but not right away. It was a lovely day, sunny and warm for the first time since Monday, and so we lingered, even longer than we usually do on the last day.

I took the kids on a final Candy Kitchen run while Beth returned the keys to the realty and then Beth and Noah made a final visit to Café a Go-Go while June and I visited the arcade and then the beach. We all met up at the kite store on the boardwalk where their annual customer appreciation day was underway. There were dozens of kites of all colors and sizes flying on the beach, pegged into the sand, and some huge inflatables—a caterpillar and a puffer fish. There was free food—fruit and bagels—and the Easter Bunny was there, handing out candy. June colored a paper kite with a picture of a dolphin leaping from the waves into a sunny sky.  A store employee cut and taped the kite where necessary and attached the spool and then Beth got it up into the air for her. We just missed the Easter egg hunt, but we were there for the games.

June participated in a spoon race, an egg toss, and a sack race.  She is such a team player that within minutes of being assigned to a team and without knowing any of the other kids she was cheering, “Team One! Team One!” and assuring the boy who went before her in the spoon race, “You can do it!”  Her team won both the spoon race and the sack race. In the egg toss, a partner event, she was eliminated toward the middle of the pack. I thought she was surprisingly good at catching a raw egg thrown from a distance, but some of those kids were even better.

After the games, we went to the cheese monger to buy fancy cheese to supplement the chips, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and candy we had in the car and we had a late lunch. Our final stop was the Crocs outlet where Noah got a pair of new crocs he needed and June got a pair she didn’t.

A little after three, we were on the road, heading back to our land-locked lives. Still, I know, there’s always another wave.