Saturday, August 26, 2017

Back from the Beach

I am grateful as all get-out to be able to say that I've just returned from an impromptu trip to the beach.  I planned a short getaway to Ocean City, Maryland--my family's annual summer vacation spot when I was a kid--the week before leaving, which is to say I ended up making the trip with very little money and just a shoulder-bag of a few belongings, and it was perfect and just what I needed. 
No matter how much I travel, I can't imagine loving any place more than I love Ocean City, since the nostalgia of it is so dear to me.  My older brother and I were still the only kids in the family the first time we ever went.  My younger brother was barely ten the last time we were all there together.  My parents were still both healthy enough back then to run on the boardwalk every morning.  I brought my Cabbage Patch Kid in her pink bikini-outfit one summer and spent another summer imagining I was wowing everyone walking along the boardwalk as I did gymnastics on the front lawn outside our motel, doing one-handed cartwheels so I could hold my t-shirt down while I flipped.  Ocean City is Dad in his thirties and forties.  Ocean City is Mom in a bikini.  Ocean City is my Older Brother's arrival at the beach wearing striped tube socks almost up to his knees.  Ocean City is Younger Brother's rubbing sand into his eyes the first time my mom ever set him down in it, forcing us to forgo the beach awhile longer to find the nearest drugstore for eye-drops.   Ocean City is Dad's exasperatedly forcing me, year after year, to try the various types of seafood that everyone else would devour--"You might like it this year!  You don't know!"  (I did know.  Phillips Crab House on Atlantic makes incredible potato salad that a girl can fill up on, I can report; A bucket of Thrasher's French Fries is also a meal unto itself, and the Paul Revere Smorgasbord offers fixings for a turkey dinner.)  Ocean City is a boy staring at me in my bathing suit for the first time.  Ocean City is my helping Mom choose the perfect postcard for Papa and Grandma back home in Pennsylvania.  Ocean City is my wondering if anyone will ever feel about me the way Peter Cetera is singing about in "Glory of Love" on the radio while our car is crossing the seemingly-never-ending Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  Ocean City is my collecting a gallon-jug of soft beach-sand for my friend Sommer since she's asked me to bring some home for her to use with craft projects.  I can laugh and choke up at an almost infinite number of Ocean City memories.  And everyone but me had made it back to the beach in the many years since we all last went together as a family, for their vacations and anniversaries, and I have ached for it and missed it like it was a person.  Last week, I'd waited long enough and decided to throw some money at the problem, as they say, and I planned a getaway. 
By Tuesday evening, then, I was finally--FINALLY!--there again.  ♥  I felt weepy the first moment I smelled the salt water, I cried as I stepped back onto the boardwalk, I choked up when I caught my first glimpse of the ocean from the boardwalk, I cried off and on as I walked along it to get to my motel--one of the ones we would stay at when I was a kid, of course--I cried while sliding open my room's balcony door to listen to the surf.  The woods in the fall and Ocean City at any time are Heaven on Earth to me.  I didn't take a minute of my time at the beach this week for granted. 
I spent my twenties struggling through years of college and grad school, much-hated jobs and hard times without jobs, bouts of depression, a lack of bravery that repeatedly hurt me more than playing things safe ever helped me,  deaths and other losses, so many things that didn't work out in just about every aspect of my life, a breakup that I let keep me worked-over years longer than I should have, weight gain, giving up my apartment to move back in with my parents, and ohhhhhhhhh!  just feeling so lost and screwed-up in so many ways.  Jauntily heading off to Ocean City, or much of anywhere else, was just not in the cards for me for so long.  And then I spent my thirties catching up in all kinds of ways.  As I've told my mom, everything that made life hard for me for so long is exactly what makes all The Good and The Sweet and The Beautiful so precious to me now.  This was my first trip to "my" beach in twenty-three years.  The picture below is the first I took of myself my first morning there this week, and my gratitude in it is palpable.  Ocean City!  My heart! 
As I mentioned when I turned forty in May, I am getting better about making self-care a real priority, and remembering to do so remains one of my goals for the year(s) ahead.  I spent Wednesday evening drinking glass after glass of iced tea on my balcony while watching the seagulls and the tide, and that time was a balm for the soul.  There was an ice cream cone and some pizza this week too, but also a good afternoon nap with the balcony door open, long walks up and down the boardwalk and along the shore, a gorgeous fruit salad for lunch and another salad for supper, so many cups of water, and all my usual vitamins and sunscreen-slatherings and prayers.  May my forties be a colossal "Thank You" and "I Get It" after all the Mister-Toad's-Wild-Ride Years.  And may they find me--please--iced tea in-hand at the beach many, many more times.  This is good for me, and it's not a waste of money, and I deserve it as much as anyone else.  (Repeat as needed.)  I finally understand this now, and I don't want to forget again.    I have always been too hard on myself, but I am slowly changing for the better.  Live and learn.  And book a room with a balcony.  :) 
This is forty.  :) 
Save my spot, Ocean City.  I am already planning and saving to get back to you again next year.  


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness!!! What a beautiful way to self care!!! I am so happy for you...hurray for val!!!diana

La Table De Nana said...


Lisa said...

I love your photos, Val: the gulls, soft ice cream cone, that piggy balloon, those cute signs (no profanity!). I'm glad you have a good get-away time. (but you? Comparing yourself with Toad??)

Val said...

Thank you all. :)

racheld said...

How absolutely perfect to awake to THIS today---it's my Birthday, and what a PRESENT! I'm just filled with all your lovelies--your words that express so much, so beautifully, and all the pinks and blues and skies and birds and all the reminiscences of all the beaches which ever charmed us everywhere, and still call us home.

What a lovely telling and sharing, and your e-mail was one of the best surprises of this whole celebration---Mail from VAL!! And that one picture of you, with your curls and that infectious, unmistakable, almost shy smile---not looking at it now, but I'm persuaded that there's some of that VAL-Green in there somewhere. There must be.

I'm so thrilled for your wonderful adventure and homecoming---that's the best of traveling, and it's wonderful to know that your dream has been so sumptuously fulfilled, and that you're already dreaming of the next.


Val said...

You're a treasure, Rachel. Thank you again. xox ♥