Sunday, July 19, 2015

Vacation is a state of mind

There are cobwebs on my ceiling corners. Don't judge me; they were here when I got here, the result of a house sitting empty for a stretch. I'm getting to them as the girls and I are getting moved in, but I'm not saying you won't find some in six months.

I'm not a slob--I keep a house picked up, dishes washed, laundry put away, beds made, bathrooms clean, grass cut, bird feeders filled. But if I get a call from a friend I don't see often, who is in town and wants to go stand-up paddleboarding on a Saturday morning before I leave for vacation, those boxes can sit. I'll get to them. But that glassy paddle on Town Creek and the Tred Avon River, at that moment, with those peeps, wouldn't have happened again just that way.

Since I was little, my family has taken a summer trip to Ocean City, Md. My parents, my sister and I, my aunt, uncle and cousin. Over the years that trip has expanded, adding my girls, my sister's husband and their three kids. It's a trip that the kids look forward to like Christmas. The week is packed with more bodysurfing, sandcastle building, Ultimate Frisbee and wiffleball on the beach, miniature golf playing, amusement park riding, Candy Kitchen fudge eating, and happy hours on the back deck, than one could rightly hope to fit in. It's not exotic, not the islands, not even the Outer Banks. And Ocean City is loud, over-developed, and neon-signed, but I wouldn't trade that annual trip and that time with family.

Repetition and tradition are funny things. They invoke nostalgia and novelty at the same time. They create experiences you look forward to, recognize, but also have never been through before: a night-time walk on the beach with my daughters, who choreograph a television commercial amidst belly laughs; the girls digging up sand crabs for their cousin (my niece); seeing the difference in how they behave in the ocean as they get bigger, stronger, and more coordinated. Family traditions allow you to pay more attention to each other than to being in a new place.

Coming home yesterday, I started the beach sand removal process (laundry), and getting the girls unpacked from vacation. There were no groceries in the house, so Anna and I went up to the Oxford Market for sandwiches. Walking up the sidewalk, there was an extended family sitting on the porch and playing in the front yard, pretty much how we rolled at the beach. And that is the subtle reminder that, hey, the place I call home is a place where people go to vacation.

That is something I have never taken for granted. I am obtuse, stubborn, frequently wrong, you name it, but I have always felt blessed to grow up and live on the Eastern Shore. Last night I rode my bike around town and stopped at a dock bar for a beer and caught up with friends. This morning I went for a run around and through town. My head is on a swivel; no matter how many times I walk, run, or bike these streets, I am frequently struck by how cool some sight, some moment is. I guess vacation is a state of mind.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Returns and Beginnings

This may well be the summer of the bike. Tuesday night, the girls and I rode four miles around Oxford. They had no idea how far they'd been, just that they were exploring main roads and back alleys and learning the town. They've been to Oxford plenty, but they've just begun calling it home. It makes a difference when you get to know a place on foot and by bike and know your house is there.

[Note: I can only tell a story from my perspective; Easton is also the girls' half-the-time home, and they love it there, but I'll stick with new beginnings and such]

I love going down a side street, the girls following close, not knowing where they are going, only to watch recognition click in... "the church!!" and they have connected the grid. They ride by the field above and see grass and trees in front of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. When I ride by the same field, I see the church lot where we played football after school, where the trees were the sidelines and end zone and it wasn't unheard of to get tackled into one.

There are the parts of town that don't seem to change. And then there is the new. I spend most of my time in the new house in the sun room where those west-facing windows are. From there, or the balcony above, the sun sets over the boat yard next door. I'm getting my bearings with what birds frequent the yard (mostly Cardinals, Blue Jays, Grackles and Chickadees), mulching gardens, cutting grass, which is a welcome return.

Moving is barely ordered chaos. Once your stuff is put mostly where you want it and you are relocated, things still don't feel settled. It's establishing a rhythm. I've walked or ridden my bike to work everyday since living here. I smile the whole way there and back in the evening. I've run and paddled and biked as workouts on some mornings. I've taken an outing or bike ride each evening, to stretch my legs and mind. There has blissfully been no television hooked up yet, though I do miss having the Washington Nationals playing in the background.

Oxford and the new house are full of familiar things. Personal and family artifacts, artwork, books, furniture; aspects and trappings of home. The move has been a return and a new beginning. I walked around the block last week, telling stories and sharing memories of what things looked like growing up, and who lived where. I dig telling stories, But I like just as much making new stories, ones that the girls and I will tell for years to come.