Figuring Out What Makes Our Beach
This story was submitted by James Warren to the Stories of Travel collection as part of the May SEEQ sessions.
Last summer, my family and I had the opportunity to visit Cape Charles. This was a much-needed vacation – our first in several years. My colleague and business partner told me about it and I went ahead and booked the vacation – surprising my wife and the kids with the trip. As we left home and got on the road, you could see the combination of relief and anticipation wash over everyone in the car, as we were finally on our way to a destination that we had never been to, but which seemed filled with such promise.
The trip itself was largely uneventful. Within minutes, the kids were asleep, so I could listen to my playlist for the trip, a combination of acoustic chill, R&B, jazz, prince, pop, Jay-Z and Biggie (the clean versions), alternative soul, Lionel ritchie’s country album.
As we drove across the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, we woke everyone up. I wanted them to see what I was seeing: wide blue skies, water with big waves, boats fishing, birds flying and the sun still rising from the oceanic horizon. As they sat up and stared out the windows, I could see the excitement and the relaxation in everyone’s faces in the car. This was one of those times where the trip itself really was a positive part of the overall experience.
We spent the next week just reconnecting as a family. Although we missed having my oldest son there, we made the most of it with the rest of our family. We spent our time relaxing, shopping, reading, hanging out at the beach, hanging out at the pool, eating, walking, working out, eating some more and visiting historic downtown and the marina. We’re not rich, but we were able to enjoy this vacation without stressing over money (this wasn’t always true for us).
One of the reasons this vacation was so wonderful is because of the reception we experienced. Ours is a mixed-race family, so to be honest, sometimes I feel a bit on edge when we go places – especially ones where we’re not sure of what the “vibe” and I most nervous vacationing in the south. In Cape Charles, I found everyone to be so warm and friendly. While there was quite the mix of vacationers, second-homers, golfers, fishermen, farmers and everyone in between, one thing was constant: everyone we met was as nice as they could be. We felt the warmth of the sun, of the land and of total strangers.
I was genuinely sad when we left, and that was unexpected. I remember looking around the condo we’d stayed in and feeling like I was leaving something really good for good. I could tell everyone else was feeling the same way, sad to be leaving this magical place where we had reconnected and rested as a family. We were also going back home. What did that mean for us? Would all the fun stay in Cape Charles? Or could we bring some of it back? Could we keep the magic back at home?
I’d love to tell you the answer was an emphatic yes, but it wasn’t always the case. By the time we got home, Cape Charles was already feeling like a distant memory, and we quickly fell back into the routine of home.
Now, however, I think of our time in Cape Charles, and I long for two things: to go back, and to bring it to home. Cape Charles refreshed us and showed us how much this place we live in has to offer especially when we do it together. It reminded me that although we are all unique and different, there’s almost always something that we can all find in common – like the welcoming smile we give strangers. The faith we put forth when we meet strangers. The shared humanity of it all.
Since that trip, our kids ask every few months, “when are we going back to the beach?” Well, I’m working on that. But I’m also working on making the beach at home, where we find time to do fun stuff together, to get out of the house and also be in the house, in the moment, attentive and relaxed with one another.