For the past four years we have made our way down I95s to a beautiful island right outside of St Augustine Fl. The oldest city in the United States.
The van packed with happy kids and adult kids and all their "stuff". Our minds remembering every little detail of the past 3 years and looking forward with great fondness to the memories that will be made this trip. Every-time we pull up to our beach house on the island, nestled just steps away from the oceans floor, time stands still. The sand that lays outside our house is quite familiar after 4 years. The ocean waves create a stillness in us that dares us to leave everything behind and for 7 days we do. Every year before we leave the island Cullen will sit and write out letters to me for us to find next year and I slowly take the picture off my bedroom wall, the one with the beach and the cute little houses, and I lay it across my bed and easily slide his love letters down in the back.Until next year.
There is one grocery store on the island and we buy our favorite food and push all the available tables together and have every single meal there..Just like home. We hold hands and bow our heads and give thanks.
When I lay in our bed for the first time on that first night I always tell Scott how much I missed this bed. I still have a pallet of kids at the foot and the ocean sounds lull me deep. In the morning opening the door to three huge windows and the sun smiling at you over the bed of the sea. I always get surprised by her beauty.
The path to the beach is a worn sand path with little cactus briers that find their way into our feet as we walk down so the little girls have to be carried on someones shoulders or hip. They're bigger now, I whisper that I probably won't have to do this next year, that is carry them over the briers.
We sit in the same place and put the same chairs out with the big blue umbrella and over 100 castle building equipment, because every year Scott sits right down in the middle of the sand and calls all of them out to see who can build the best and biggest sand castle.It's like calling out the war call if you have male blood running in your family. They work for hours on their master pieces and then they want me to judge. Although he always wins they're giving him a run for his money lately. His extra points with me being the judge always sends him over by just a little.
He always gets them together and says Lets go slay some dragons and they make their way to the shore and pretend they have swords and start hitting the waves. He tells them stories of dragons living way out in the ocean and they are stomping their feet and we have to stop their waves before they get on shore. He's just cool like that.
I sit back in my chair and count 1-2-3-4-5-6 over and over looking for any sign of distress.
I'm just cool like that.
I have sat in the same place and mourned the loss of Tom Lee and his precious family and our friends The Crawfords who lost their home that year. Tears fell and we almost didn't go but the ocean has a way of reminding you who's in charge. I have sat under the same umbrella and helped my teenage daughter sort through all her feelings and watched her grow up with the ocean at her feet.
This year a woman and she brings her husband and my grand-baby and we talk baby stuff and dream about next year and how Marlee will be almost a year old Lord willing. I have watched Tucker bring the love of his life to our island and propose in almost the exact same spot that 2 years before Scott and I exchanged our renewal wedding vows with flowers and candles and lots of tears. He now gets on one knee and asks and she said yes! He had asked me to be there to take pictures and of course I wouldn't miss it and neither would the rest of the crew as they all snuck out and circled them and then we prayed. Another beautiful memory...
" It's all those things, and something else, the something that our family becomes when we are there." We;re the best version of our family there, relaxed and connected and without agenda or schedule.We have conversations that unfold lazily and resolve over days instead of minutes. We tell stories that everyone's already heard, and it doesn't bother us, because we have nothing else to do. We're irresponsible, and we make up plans as we go, and we've been going there long enough to have patterns just like worn spots in carpet. Patterns that have become traditions. things you do without thinking that feel familiar and meaningful." I read that out of a book called Cold Tangerines...
As you make your way to the light and if you turn left it will dump you out on the island where there is a park with a huge carouse,l bright and beautiful, and the music can be heard through the windows of your car. It stands under the old Augustine trees in memory of children who have passed on. A beautiful place bustling with life but at your feet little bricks with hand written letters from the parents and grandparents of those angels. A holy place. We stand and pay our dollar and find a horse that moves and the wind and the music and the laughter and smell of the salt water makes you never want to get off. I remember my own angel and wish I could put a brick in the soil for him. This place is for William. My prince whom I shall never forget even on vacation.
I believe that our family vacations have played an important role in building strong family ties. Yes, it's expensive and yes it's always gonna be, but you know what? We all get to choose how we spend our money and we choose this. My home is in need of repairs, I'll be honest, but my kids are all growing up and so we have chosen this day to save our money for our big vacation every year. There is not enough money in the world to buy what I live on, on that island for those 7 days. Find you a place to explore and call your own. We don't own that house on the island we rent it every year but it's home to us and I wonder when they look back years later will they remember that our walls needed painted or our bathroom needed up-dated, or will they tell my grand babies how they slayed dragons in the ocean and went to every single thrift store on the island looking for cool memory makers? How one year we made Shirley temples until midnight, how we fought over the towels and hot water after along day on the beach. I wonder if Cullen will remember that we walked till the beach ended and we stood and looked out over the ocean with the wind pushing us but we stuck our faces in the wind and held out our arms and breathed.