Summertime to me meant vacation in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, where the only sense of time I had was judged by the suns rising and setting. I knew when I began to hear the call of the cicada that it was soon time to leave for North Carolina, just as if the insect was itself a seasonal alarm clock.
The night before we left was always a frenzy at my house. My mom would have us lay out our weeks outfits for the trip, making sure we had all we needed (and extra for those bound to happen watermelon stains). Vacation was not a time for laundry! Boxes of spices were packed for cooking, the umbrella was rolled tightly and ready to shield us from heat, chairs were folded neatly, their creaky hinges in need of summer moisture and PLENTY of sunscreen for us very fair folk. My brother and I packed our small canvas bags for the long 12 hour journey to our seaside haven filled with coloring books, gameboys, books to read, and our favorite toys. Last but not least, the camera and kite. What’s an Atlantic Beach Vacation without sending a kite souring as high as the string allows and appearing as small as an ant up in the sky? I’d say it’s incomplete.
“Alright you two,” my mom would say, “Off to bed.” Of course these were the worst words a child could hear right before leaving on an exciting journey. Having shared a room, my brother and I would talk about all the things we planned to do in Atlantic Beach after we were sent to bed. We’d talk about last year, and how we were more excited than ever this year (and every year we had that conversation), about the new things we wanted to try and the old things we didn’t want to do any longer. The morning seemed like it would never come, and tiredness never seemed to set in. But before we knew it, Mom and Dad were tapping our shoulders with smiles, “Hey kids, it’s time to get up for vacation.” I think those smiles they received were the best gifts we could ever give to them.
Our 3am departure time meant it would still be dark, which for some reason was very exciting. It seemed like no one was up, only truckers on the highway, and that we pretty much ruled the roads. I remember once asking my Dad if I could scream out the window because I was so excited; he obliged and it was thrilling. There was no other way I could show my excitement better than that at the time. Every state we passed through was one step closer to our own little paradise, but even when crossing into North Carolina, it was not yet “vacation.” Our vacation mark came when we crossed the bridge leading us to Atlantic Beach. The tires beating against the cement road creating rhythm as if it was our personal anthem leading us to our dream.
“Finally, we’re here,” we’d shout as kids with our parents joining in our silliness. We’d pass Wings and Eagles (the ocean chachki department stores), we’d pass the hotels and the piers, the restaurants and our favorite children’s theme park called Jungle Land. The best moment of it all was opening up our condo door, running through the house to see if there was anything new, which of course there was not, and then as if we were about to explode with excitement ask, “Can we go see the water?” My Dad would take us down, and it only took 7 minutes before we were completely soaked in our full clothing, because obviously there was no time to unpack any bathing suites; the ocean might run away if we did that. The week was just beginning and I had the Cicada to thank as my seasonal alarm clock, counting down those minutes to arrival.
I’m so thankful that my parents invested so much into us as children. Their time and attention was the best treat, gift and language of love anyone can show.