We have a summer tradition in our family that dates back to 1980. Yep, it’s hard to believe that it was nearly 40 years ago, right about the time that Spouse and I got married, that my parents bought a timeshare at a tiny family-friendly, older model motel-conversion tucked neatly between modern high-rise condos lining Daytona Beach Shores (that’s the southernmost end of Daytona Beach). It was called, appropriately, Sand and Surf.
That’s because when you go to the beach to enjoy the surf, all you see, feel, touch, and taste is sand. Between your toes, stuffed in all the inconvenient recesses of your bathing suit, coating your scalp, all over your condo floor, and gritting up the space between your bed sheets. Sand, sand, and more sand.
So okay, we understood that sand was a big part of the deal. But what we didn’t count on was the timeshare family we would acquire. And the traditions that would become such an important part of our summers forever.
By timeshare family, I mean the 4-5 other families who bought units for the same week; the families from Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and various locations in Florida who were at first strangers but have since become our extended family over the decades we’ve been thrown together for one blistering hot special week every year, to catch up on news, coo over new babies, laugh our heads off, and just generally enjoy each others’ presence.
And by traditions, I’m referring to the same familiar, comfortable, wonderful routines we fall into when we’re at the S & S:
- Same room we’ve been in for four decades (and probably some of the same sand). Although redecorated upon occasion, Room 125 has the same feel for my bouncing grandchildren to enjoy that it had for my own children at the same excitable young ages. Happy memories hug me like a warm blanket. This is the second generation in the same room (third if you count mine – I was only 21 when we started our S & S tradition).
- Putt-putt golf right down the street. Our S & S week is the only time we play during the year, mostly because of the busyness of life not allowing time. But it sure makes for a lot of special fun when we do get to play in Daytona.
- Eating at Aunt Catfish. Oh, my. Ever been there? (It’s by the Port Orange bridge.) We never miss it, not once in 39 years. We all look forward to the yummy homemade cinnamon buns they include with every meal, and the old fashioned hot bar offering fabulous corn bread, baked beans, cheese grits, and warm sugary baked apple slices. Yummm. I’m drooling on my keyboard as I write this. Food makes some of the best memories, doesn’t it?
- But most of all for me, my sunrise prayer walks on the beach. This is my personal fave and something unique to our Daytona week that fills my tank and meets my needs on so many levels.
Always a ridiculously early riser (I’m talking 4:30 or 5 am most days), I read while drinking my morning hot chai latte in the room until just before sunrise at 6:30 am, then I make sure I’m on the beach headed down the mile of my fave walking section when the sun softly colors the sky like cotton candy and then builds intensity and clarity until it bursts over the horizon, making the huge expanse of water shimmer and glimmer like pirate’s jewels.
Up until about five years ago, Mama and Daddy were always with us at Daytona (Daddy passed away last Christmas and Mama is 90 and unable to get around as well as she used to). They’re the ones who had the foresight to buy the unit all those years ago and passionately loved spending that Daytona week with their sandy prodigy.
So as I walked on the beach last week, worshiping and praising and listening to Papa God, I relished the memories of all the past years I walked down that very same section of beach at the very same time of the morning, when I saw, off in the distance, way down the beach coming toward me, a taller figure and a shorter one, each with their own unique gaits peculiar to my parents.
They were early risers too (must be where I got it from) and cherished sunrises on the beach, so I could count on them being ahead of me each morning, walking their three miles before breakfast, meeting me coming back when I was half their age and just heading out.
I miss those days. So. Very. Much. And the strong, energetic, make-every-moment-count example my parents were.
Sadly, as we often do, I took them for granted at the time and didn’t appreciate them nearly enough. And now those days and the incredible generation of people who were so much a part of my life during that era are nearly all gone.
This year, my breath caught in my throat when I glanced down the beach ahead of me as the sun burst forth to greet the new day and saw a taller figure beside a very short one walking toward me, just like in my precious memories. Seeing them made tears flow unfettered, and I’m sure the elderly couple who eventually passed me wondered about the flubbering sunrise beachcomber.
Seems like I cry a lot these days; it’s been one of those years filled with heavy loss. Special people, places, and things of my past seem to be slipping away faster than usual years. But they’re not bitter tears … they’re bittersweet. A little regret, sure, but mostly happiness couched in gratitude for what was and hope for what is yet to come. I think it was Dr. Seuss who said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
So I think next time I feel tears bubbling to the surface over bittersweet beach memories, I’ll just go grab a handful of sand and throw it between my bed sheets. Yep. That oughta do the trick.
What are some of your fave summer family traditions, dear BBFF?
*CONGRATS to the winner of my Sizzling Summer Giveaway: Trina Whitson! And a whopping thanks to everyone who entered! Hang tight and watch for the next giveaway coming soon. Hugs!!!
**An answer for those of you who’ve been asking where to find the gorgeous new hot pink gift edition of my bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed: 3-Minute Devotions for Women (pictured in the Giveaway gift package) – it’s available in many gift stores and Christian bookstores and online at www.Christianbook.com but not at Amazon (at this time). The original paperback version has now sold over a half-million copies in 3 languages worldwide so my publisher decided to put out this very nice gift edition. Check it out – your peeps will love it as a hostess gift, Bible Study girlfriend just-because gift, or bestie I-love-you surprise.