When we arrived at the beach house late Saturday night, my daughter, who'd been asleep in the car, quickly woke up to take in her new, albeit temporary, home. She ran through each room, came back and asked, "Where's all the toys? I don't see much kid stuff." It might have been nice if she'd waited to mention that until after the woman who'd rented us the house, and who'd be staying in the upper level, had actually left the room, but no such luck. "Kids say the silliest things. Sorry," I said to her as I grimaced. Then Jade ran back into the room designated for her, yelled out that she liked the purple walls, that there were two beds in the room (!), and that she was going to test the springy-ness factor of both beds. Needless to say, no need to visit the trampoline park with mattresses like these in your home. Our landlord left, and a few minutes later, returned armed with board games, none of which were age-appropriate for a four-and-a-half year old.
This was the first vacation my husband, daughter and I had taken on our own...by ourselves...just the three of us...(Did I mention it would just be us?)...since our daughter's birth almost five years ago. But work had us so busy that the days snuck up on us. A week before our time off was set to start, we had nowhere to go. And, despite the current trend in stay-cations, we really wanted to get away from the city. So, when my husband found a last minute Craig's List beach rental on New Jersey's Long Beach Island, we went for it--keeping our expectations low.
The house was a block off the beach in Beach Haven
, a family-friendly area. "Who am I going to play with?" my daughter Jade had asked me. "What am I, chopped liver? I'll play with you! Daddy will play with you! We'll swim, look for shells, bike ride..." I responded. "No, really Mom. Who will I play with?" She asked again, with a serious look of concern on her face.
LBI was a place I'd remembered fondly from trips I'd taken there more than twenty years ago. But, a lot can change in that amount of time, so we braced ourselves for the possibility the island had become overrun with strip malls, big box stores and mini-golf, whereas I had memories that included biking to a light house, cooking crabs that we'd caught ourselves, and going to the trampoline park.
Approaching the causeway to the island, we passed a Home Depot, a Bed Bath & Beyond, a Lowe's...and the list went on. Not even on the island yet and it appeared our expectations might be met. But after crossing the causeway, we rolled down the windows and breathed in the sea air.
We did our best to settle in quickly. The room that Jade was staying in was the only room that appeared to have been updated since the house was built in 1972. The rest of the house allowed for us to re-live some elements of our childhood, including: linoleum tiling, a bathroom fully done in a color made by combining avocado green and dull yellow, and salad bowls made of wood that would get caught in your knife if you cut too hard. It was brutally hot and there was no air conditioning, so we opened the windows and went to bed drenched in sweat.
The next morning it poured. Not the most auspicious beginning for our vacation. The weather forecast didn't look too promising. And the house kind of smelled like stale smoke. But still, we were at the shore, and we were there solo as a family, and that was more than something! Throughout the week, we managed to get out onto the beach (if only for a little while) every single day we were there. Continued on the next page