Coast Insights, Part 1
We took the grandchildren to the Texas coast the very first day of summer vacation. Friends have let us use their cottage on Aransas Bay for many years, and now we’ve introduced a new generation to peaceful Rockport.
One reason I love travel is because it is nearly always transformative. I come home changed, sometimes in trivial ways and sometimes profoundly. This trip had both. Part 1 is the ups and downs of a beach vacation with kids; Part 2 is about more serious issues that coalesced for me on this trip.
So, for the trivial bits:
- What were we thinking? A 10-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, cousins, with personalities like oil and water. Let’s see: bicker, taunt, slap, pinch, bite, tease—am I leaving anything out? There is no culprit; each is equally complicit. Gary is amazing—he mostly laughs and calls them silly names, but I have to be the bad cop, wearing out the word “STOP!” And Gary did begin losing it in the final hours of the trip home, yelling at them like I had been for five days.
- The Texas coast in June has lost its charm. It’s unbearably hot, humid, usually windy and buggy. And swimming isn’t particularly refreshing; the water at Rockport beach had to be 90 degrees. And full of jellyfish. Chloe was stung in the first five minutes in the water. Fortunately the pain abated quickly, and other people were very kind in offering tips, like rubbing sand on it, rinsing with salt water, not fresh; someone even gave us hand sanitizer to soothe the pain. Both kids were soon picking up jellyfish with their sand toys and tossing them into the water.
- A beach vacation is more fun for everyone who doesn’t have to plan and prepare all the meals, especially in an unfamiliar kitchen. That was everyone but me. I was determined to eat simply, and given different people’s fussiness it got a little weird—one night Bryan had shrimp and watermelon and Chloe had three bunless hot dogs and watermelon. But nobody starved.
- Why, oh, why can’t they build a bridge from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas? We didn’t have any unbearable ferry waits because we timed our arrivals and departures well, but on our first return trip we learned about the quirks of federal regulation. The vehicle in front of us died, and instead of pushing it off the ferry on the AP side, federal policy is to let all the vehicles off the ferry except the dead one and all those behind it (and of course it was at the very front), go back to PA, push the dead car off there, then turn around with just those five or six cars that are left and take them back to AP. On a Friday afternoon, when the ferry lines in both directions were endless, taking one ferry out of service (and making those few cars make the extra trip) was just stupid.
- Even the beach—the BEACH—has lost much of its appeal. Sand. Wind. Too much sun. Despite arriving and leaving early and diligently applying, and repeatedly reapplying, 50 sunscreen, we all still got mild burns and had to skip the beach on day two, instead spending a day (and $100) at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi.
But for all my griping I’m glad we went. I’m incredibly grateful for the time I spent with those two beautiful, amazing and utterly aggravating children. Swimming in salt surf, playing alien sea-zombie with the kids, and teaching Chloe to bodysurf made it worthwhile. I hope the kids have good memories of going to the coast with Grandma and Gary.
A highlight was one evening when we all went out onto the fishing pier. Gary was helping the kids fish, but the water was choppy and they had no luck. Chloe was being Chloe, dancing and playing on the platform, and Bryan was off by himself with a fishing pole. I decided to go sit down with him and see what was on his mind. He gave me a tutorial on fishing, and I sat and listened to him. He is so bright and curious, but he’s quieter than Chloe, more cerebral, and she’s such an attention magnet I think he sometimes feels left out. When he was done fishing we joined Chloe and Gary on the platform and had a talent show. Chloe performed a Taylor Swift song, then Bryan announced he was going to give a lecture on bass fishing. We all listened respectfully and I asked questions because I know squat about bass fishing, and I learned some things. The finale was Gary singing “New York, New York” with Chloe and me doing backup.
One afternoon while Gary napped the kids and I shot commercials, with Bryan directing and Chloe touting spicy corn chips and water with club soda. I got to try out the video function on my new camera, and we have some hilarious videos. Those moments are the ones I’ll treasure long after the memory of the torment of two kids on a road trip has subsided.
I just don’t know how long it’ll be before I could do it again.
Next: what I really learned at the Coast.