Sunday, May 20, 2012

May You Always Have a Shell in Your Pocket and Sand in Your Shoes

For years, each summer, I see my dear friend Jamie for only a few hours. It's a far cry from the many hours and days we've spent together over the years: from when we met as coworkers at a credit union, and the countless hours together with our kids and trips to Bear Lake, Park City, the park. We became fast friends working side by side at that small credit union. Each of our three kids were close in age and got along well. About 14 years ago, I moved out of state. I go back each summer for a week or two but the time passes quickly and other obligations keep me from spending more than a couple of hours with Jamie.

Last year, she said to me, "You aren't supposed to be stressed on vacation - you should be relaxed. You need to go to the beach with me." Yeah, right! I thought. She reminded me the kids are older - out of high school. It would be relaxing, wonderful, quiet. Just laying on the beach, reading, whatever. It would be OK!

I'm not sure I ever imagined I really would meet her in Florida at her sister's condo. It seemed so far away. I also felt unsure, guilty to go on a vacation without my family, selfish to spend time like that on me, embarrassed to get in a swimsuit (I don't like how I look and need to lose some weight). But in spite of all that and with her persistence I agreed. Really, I just didn't want to talk about it anymore and figured it wouldn't go any further.

I was wrong.

Jamie, being so incredibly giving and generous, booked the flights, arranged the dates, rented the car - basically took care of everything. All I had to do was pack a few things and get to the airport. Feelings of guilt kept me from telling anybody right away. Seriously, I'm not the type of person to go on a vacation without my family! She even thought I would back out.

But I didn't.

So on a cool morning in May, Tim drove me to the airport in Des Moines and I headed south. Jamie and her sister had been there a week already. They were both tan and content. I had one week with them in Florida on the white sand beach of Navarre. It was wonderful. We picked shells from the beach and in the warm water of the Gulf, we laughed, laid out on the beach (with lots of sunscreen, of course), went to neighboring tourist towns (Destin and Pensacola Beach), ate at fun restaurants (Old Bay Steamer, Hemingway's Island Grill, Mellow Mushroom, Sailors' Grill), shopped. It was great not to live by a set schedule. I even tried new things. Jamie loves boiled peanuts. I do not. We bought them from a roadside vendor - I won't eat them again. Her sister brought us crawfish etouffee from Louisiana - that was tasty and I would definitely eat that again.

I discovered that it was refreshing to spend time away from the family - even though I missed them and hope they missed me too. A week-long getaway with good friends and some new ones was just what I needed. If there's a next time, I hope it's a little longer than a week. Our daily routine consisted of sleeping in a little, eating a bite for breakfast, slathering on sunscreen, packing up beach bags and the small cooler with water, ice and snacks. We'd gather beach chairs and an umbrella, nets to scoop shells. It didn't take long to set up in just the perfect spot on the beach. I brought back tons of shells - each unique - for my family and friends back home. The one I dove in for after I spotted through the water is mine though.

I've lived beachside, on the west coast. It's beautiful there, in a different way. Like my mom, the ocean beckons to me. I miss living near a large body of water. It's so powerful yet peaceful. She was a true Southern California beach babe back in the day. Jamie is a beach girl too and I so thankful she encouraged me to go. It was just what I needed.

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