Sitting on the upper deck of the vacation condo, coffee in hand (lower-fat version). Kids with a babysitter at the condo pool. Husband dispatched to get more change for the babysitter’s greedy meter (a quarter gets you all of 7.5 minutes). Beach and boardwalk are a block and a half away. Spacious view in front of me, thanks to an empty lot. But that view will be gone next year, as construction workers are busy right now erecting the Hawaiian Beach Resort, roughly 16 bright-yellow-shingled townhouses that will probably be identical on the inside to the condo we’re staying in. Condos continue to take over the Wildwoods. Even a lot of the old motels have been condo-ized. I find it a little sad, but it’s hard to beat the comfort and spaciousness of this place. Central air, a nice well-designed kitchen with an island, first-floor laundry. Still, there’s a beautiful Victorian down the block for sale, big raised porch, turret, six bedrooms, surrounded by trees. If I had the half-mil available, I’d probably go with that one.
Yesterday morning at 2:30 am, the Collingswood Police called both my husband and me. Neither of us woke up. In the morning, my husband got the message and called them back to find out what was wrong. We knew it was probably something small, but at the same time, it could be bad (we were burglarized while on vacation once before, living elsewhere). I found myself astonishingly unconcerned. Everything of value was here with me. My family, my laptop, and my phone. If the house burned down, it’d be bad times for the cats if they didn’t escape, but as far as stuff, there was nothing irreplaceable. All my photos exist on the Web in one place or another. It would suck to lose all the work we’ve put into the house, of course. But I just feel right now like I could turn my back on that house and not look back.
The garage door had been left open, by my brother-in-law.
The weather has been gorgeous this whole week. It’s about 75 degrees right now, at 11:40 am, and mostly sunny. The air just feels cleaner here. There’s almost always a breeze. Last night we had our sweatshirts on, walking on the beach at twilight. And best of all, no damn cicadas droning their little hearts out.
Don’t make me go home.
Barn’s burnt down —
I can see the moon.
— Mizuta Masahide (1657-1723)
That was Tuesday morning. Now it’s late Thursday night. I sit out there again, with my last glass of wine for the evening. Everybody else has gone to bed. The Ferris wheel several blocks south is still lighting up, different patterns, different colors. On the sidewalk below, families are still walking home from the boardwalk. It’s almost midnight. The moon is full and bright, directly overhead. This is it, the last moment of the trip when you can just enjoy being there and not have to think about cleaning and packing and going home. My husband and I had gone to a nice restaurant earlier, had some good food and drinks and after a few drinks decided we were *definitely* buying a house down here, by hook or by crook. Like we decide every year.
I watch the neon sign of the Surf Motel light up. The motel lies just beyond the empty lot in front of me. “Surf” is in red and underneath it there is a blue squiggle of a wave. “Surf” lights up first and then the squiggle lights up in stages and then the whole thing flashes. Repeat. Repeat all night.
It’s not only my own happiness I’m enjoying, but the good times and fond memories of my parents and my grandparents. Everybody has a story, or had one. Recently my mom showed me a picture she had found of her, her parents, and her sisters, about to head out to the Ocean City boardwalk. They were all dressed up, with crinolines under their skirts and shiny shoes. My one grandmother, hanging wash with her sisters in Ship Bottom. And my other grandmother, whose parents had a house in Wildwood Crest: taking the train from Philly in the ’40s, then riding the trolley into the Crest, waiting for the driver to call out her street: “Lav-en-der!”
I let “Tunnel of Love” play in my head for a while, then finally say goodbye, go inside and get ready for bed.
Now I’m home and in my usual post-vacation funk. Friday, I managed to bang up my left foot pretty good, making packing and cleaning that much worse. Saturday, the kids and I left early, taking the majority of our stuff with us. My husband had a few things to do and pack before he left, including cleaning out the fridge and packing the cooler with the perishables. But he woke up not feeling well (NOT hungover… not this time) and so ended up leaving everything in the fridge. He also left a set of our sheets there. It sucks because for once, I had gotten the vacation food shopping just right. I didn’t go overboard, and so there wasn’t too much food left at the end of the week. But what was left in the fridge is now wasted. Unless the cleaners were allowed to take it, which I hope they were.
It was a wonderful vacation; we got our fill of sun, sand, surf and chlorine. We had a lot of fun, silly, together time, and also some grown-ups only time. By the second day, I had forgotten everything that was worrying me before I left. I got to read a book from start to finish in just a few days (The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve). Better yet, I resisted buying a book in a bookstore (I was strolling around waiting to check in to the house), reasoning that maybe the house would have books, and it did.
Back to full-blown reality tomorrow.