Author’s note: This is the first installment of a multi-part series. For an optimal reader experience, read the introduction first. Subsequent installments will post daily.
On the big day, Melinda and I packed the car with the necessary beach provisions. Packing for any type of excursion is an exercise in blind anticipation, where you walk around the house looking at your stuff and guessing whether you’ll need it or not. Should we bring the waffle iron? Do you think the hotel will have adequate throw pillows? What if it snows? Should we pack the snowblower just in case?
Much like camping or a journey to the center of the earth, preparing for a beach vacation requires specialized equipment; bulky, expensive shit that spends the majority of its life taking up two-thirds of your toolshed. We hauled these nylon and aluminum monstrosities out of storage, spilling half a ton of sand secreted in their crevices from our last beach trip on the living room floor in the process.
We decided to leave the waffle iron at home, though I discovered Melinda for some reason packed the air compressor I use to fill bike tires.
We hit the road, and in three short hours, arrived at our destination.
The city of Virginia Beach has nowhere near the storied past of the Jersey shore. Like many beachside towns, it modeled itself after trailblazers like Atlantic City and Asbury Park and started building hotels and boardwalks in the late 1800s. Though Va Beach can’t boast about being the originator of the Miss America pageant or saltwater taffy, it is home to the longest pleasure beach in the world (35 miles), Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, and the annual East Coast Surfing Championship. It also features a 164-acre park built on a landfill called Mount Trashmore.
All in all, I felt pretty positive there’d be enough local charm to satisfy my desire for shoreside nostalgia. I mean, if Mount Trashmore couldn’t make me feel like I was in Atlantic City, nothing would.
We found our hotel and checked in, pleased to find it was exactly as advertised: an eight-story high-rise with every room located on the ocean side. The room was likewise enjoyable, by no means palatial but a far cry from the stretch of seedy-looking doo wop motels I saw on the way in. Unlike a normal hotel room, the door of the suite opened into the bedroom, and then a small corridor connected it to the living room and kitchenette. The back wall was windows and a door that led to our balcony, which was a beach ball’s throw from the sand.
The kids, whom had managed their excitement pretty well to this point, lost their minds as soon as they saw the beach. They began dancing and flailing, asking in hurried fragments when we’d go to the beach. Two minutes prior we’d all had the singular mission of transporting our luggage to the room. Now, while Melinda and I wrestled with two dozen tote bags full of sandals and towels, they ping-ponged around the room, breaking into a demented version of Mad Libs karaoke, where they replaced lyrics in pop songs with the word fart.
One of the biggest problems with going on vacation as a family is that the desires of adults and children are in direct conflict with each other. Parents want to spend their week doing nothing, and kids want to do allofthethingsrightfuckingnow.
This inverse relationship results in a cycle of emotions that waxes and wanes like the tides. The kids’ excitement constantly builds, crescendoing to a fever pitch until the parents’ annoyance threshold is reached and they tell the kids to knock it the hell off.
I endured their shenanigans with a sort of enraged stoicism , but after the fourth rendition of “I’m gonna fart my fart to the fart town road,” I reached my breaking point.
“Alright, everyone relax, goddammit!” I yelled, my arms full of folding chairs. “No one’s going anywhere until we get unpacked, so calm down or this is the closest you’ll get to the beach all week.”