Coastal family reunion

“Pick a spot, any spot and let’s plan to vacation together there next year,” we urged the family last fall.
Our destination vacation took us within 90 minutes of the Atlantic Ocean.
“I know it’s a ways to the ocean, but I definitely want to go to the ocean at least one day,” my St. Louis son said. “I haven’t seen the ocean since I was in high school.”
“We can do that,” we packed beach towels, swimming clothes, sand pails and shovels.
The day I flew across the country with our Little Rock family to meet my husband, our St. Louis chef spent the day working her way through an assortment of old and new recipes she brought to try. By the time we finished the nearly three-hour drive from the airport, she proudly presented us with a pork roast, a cilantro seasoned shrimp and veggie salad and various side dishes. Looking ahead at our day at the beach, she had also prepared and refrigerated party sandwiches heaped high with meats and vegetables.
“For me this is a vacation. I am doing what I love — cooking food without interruption,” she said.
Our stomachs enjoyed her vacation immensely that night, the next day at the beach and leftovers the next couple days.
The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms, but they did not come while the Hershberger crew challenged the fringes of the ocean and dug out moats in the sand for the waves to fill.
Sure, I got wet. I took pictures. But mostly I enjoyed my kind of vacation. I sat and watched the ocean, read my book, enjoyed the salt laden breeze, listened to the ocean and watched the little ones while their parents skipped waves.
The next evening the Pennsylvania family joined us announcing their plans to go to the ocean early the next morning. After a shared breakfast, followed by a flurry of activity gathering up towels, food my daughter prepared, picnic baskets and dinnerware, we split up parents and children into varied groups to use the 90—minute drive to better acquaint ourselves with each other.
Everyone swapped places except me. I served as the perpetual good buddy with the four-month-old. She absolutely hates baby car seats. She can handle 15 minutes, but after that she protests the indignity of safety belts, straps and bucket shaped car seats designed to keep her alive but strapped down and “bored to tears in the car,” as our 12 year-old granddaughter summarized the infant’s problem.
To thwart the tears, we sang, danced our hands, shook a rattling container of gum in a circle around her field of vision, laid out picture books and told her fantastic stories with in high squeaky voices. To the astonishment of her father, instead of crying, she spent the 90-minute drive happily vacationing with sounds and colors.
The two boy cousins, eight-years apart in age, hung out together for sheer protection from all the girls — until the ocean came into view. Then the oldest grandson joined his dad and uncles jumping the waves and floating over their crests on his boogey board. All boy, he teased and tackled his dad, seeking opportunities to bond with the men. The youngest grandson joined his four-year-old cousin digging a hole in the sand until their parents came to hold their phands to challenge the ocean.
The ocean entertained us until a small shower dictated a lunch break in a picnic shelter. Once the skies cleared up, we trudged back over the dunes where sand, salt and sea covered us in vacation memories.
(Vacationing Joan Hershberger has returned to be a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at