Sunshine, 80 degrees, a wide expanse of empty white beach, and the omnipresent rolling of the waves are the antidote to the restlessness and bone-chill that sets in by mid February in New England. A road trip was in order – including 4 perfect days in Savannah, visits with family and friends, and the centerpiece – a week on the gulf coast with our kids, their partners and Lo.
Family vacations can be complicated. Everyone has their own expectations about how they want to spend their time. The quarters may not be ideal and six adults will need to negotiate for bathroom time, kitchen use and access to the most comfortable seating. Not to mention the ongoing question of what to eat and how to obtain it. I am here to report that I have discovered the secret ingredient for a family vacation: bring a toddler.
We all knew that Lo is perfect is most every way, but we didn’t fully appreciate the unifying force she could be during beach week. Her naps and bedtimes organized our schedules. Her antics provided 90% of the entertainment. And seeing the world through her almost-two year old perspective was enough to, well, puts things into perspective.
Did she remember her summer trip to Maine? Hard to know, but she immediately got down to work shoveling sand into a bucket. She ran into the waves and squealed. She picked rocks and shells out of the sand. She poured water from her bucket. She sported several attractive hats.
With her usual gregariousness, she aggressively greeted “strangers” in restaurants, in the pool, on the beach and all of us (several times per day) (hi. HI. HIIIIII!) until we had no choice but to give in.
Our condo abutted a bird sanctuary and thus we were treated with a consistent availability of various sea birds. I don’t remember the first time I ever saw a pelican, but I won’t forget Lo’s first one. She was astonished. And immediately demanded “more, more.” I spent the week explaining to her that I did not control the birds. Luckily, they were abundant and she quickly learned to point them out on land, on sea and in the air.
She acquired several new vacation words – beach, bird, sticky, fly and pee (when anyone left her to use the bathroom.). But her favorite word was pool or as she customized it “sool.” Once she discovered its existence, she asked for “sool” all day everyday. When the condo door was inadvertently left open, she toddled away, chanting sool, sool, sool. We rescued her before she got too far. And, while donning her pjs, in a last-gasp attempt to avoid bedtime, she sadly asked “sool?”
She bonded with Aunt Sal who taught her important things – ie, don’t accept a tortilla chip without guacamole (resulting in demands for “gwak, gwak”) and how to pose like a fashion model when wearing a new outfit.
Despite the draw of sun, sand, pelicans, sool, guacamole and magnificent sunsets, it was Lo who kept us in her thrall. Every 30 minutes, she would point at and name each of us, as if reassuring herself that it was indeed true, we were all here, all together and willing to make play-doh shapes for her.