Part of my excitement about our 60 hour whirlwind trip the North Carolina coast revolved around the beach. We vacation in Emerald Isle every summer, an island that falls right between my aunt and uncle’s house and my cousin’s house. My big plan involved swinging down onto the island as we headed to the baby shower.
I remember the first time I visited the beach during the winter months. I must have been a young teenager as my brother and cousin stand out in my memory as relatively short and vaguely annoying. I don’t know why we found ourselves in North Carolina that winter or why my maternal grandmother was with us. Those details pale in comparison to being on the beach. In winter.
The sun shone brightly that day, so bright that it hurt my eyes. Squinting, I stood staring at my beloved ocean as the waves lapped the shore. My brother and cousin ran around; I chased them and their squeals disappeared into the space where the sounds of the ocean and air envelope everything. I pulled the sleeves of my mom’s purple sweatshirt jacket around myself; she gave up her jacket for me when I complained that I felt cold. Motherhood. As I stood there on that winter afternoon, sand blowing into the folds in my jeans, my heart filled with a love that has only grown for that place every year since.
I wanted to share that moment with my sons, to have them experience the beauty of the beach in winter. I wanted the two of them to have their own sunny, standing on the beach, life-defining moment.
Things didn’t go quite as planned. Because parenthood. And Mother Nature.
LittleBrother fell asleep on the way to the beach. Instead of the sun shining, big clouds hung low over the waves. Thanks to the Polar Vortex of DOOM, the temperature never made it past 30 degrees. Still, I drove all this way to provide my children with a lasting memory, and good golly, we would achieve a lasting memory! I forced my grumpy, whiny, cold children out of their warm car seats. I made one of them climb back inside the car to retrieve his Hobbes tiger because in my grand master plan of creating lasting memories, Hobbes totally made an appearance.
As the wind blew, pelting us with sand, I marched my children out to the end of the closest boardwalk, told them to turn around, and implored them to please, oh please smile. Quickly. I played it up. Big time. “Isn’t this great! The beach! IN WINTER! Who goes to the beach in winter?!”
people moms who get a grand master plan of creating lasting memories, that’s who. My kids seemed to register the craziness of the moment. While LittleBrother hurried back down the boardwalk, Hobbes’ tail dragging behind him, BigBrother took another look around him. I felt a flicker of hope, that as he looked around, surely he would create a lasting memory. He would look back on this cold, cloudy, windy day and realize the effort I put forth to provide such a moment.
He squinted his eyes to shield them from oncoming grains of sand and exhaled. “It looks the same as always.”
Deflated, I shuffled us back to the warm, waiting car, turned it on and headed off to go about the rest of our day. It occurred to me later that the whole outing, while not picture perfect, definitely ranked up there on the list of lasting memories. Humorous, didn’t-go-as-planned, let’s-not-do-that-again lasting memories, but lasting memories all the same.