Well, we made it to Gulf Shores, AL just before dinner time on Thursday...and just before Tropical Storm Lee arrived.
I have to tell to you, it's difficult to admit defeat to a natural disaster - but not as easy as it is to admit defeat to my two small children, trapped in a condo for too long. We made several good-hearted attempts to make it down to the sand, but the wind and the rough surf made it close to impossible for two little ones to get a grip of the ocean.
I didn't even get to take any pictures...well, I lie...I took two on my phone.
|This was the view from the balcony when we arrived Thursday.|
|And this was the view Saturday morning...|
But far more significant are the few I took in my mind...wanna humor me?
The first picture would take place the first evening we got there and Scott and I took the girls down to the beach for a quick walk in between rain showers. It was cool, so we put them in cover-ups that were long sleeved and white and terry cloth. They were hesitant and wide eyed...the storm made the ocean look angry and fierce and the sky was grey. It wasn't the happy-go-lucky beach we had hoped would great them on our first trip to the sand. But plow ahead they did and laughed and ran into the wind when their feet hit the grit. The first time the water lapped up to hit their little toes, they shrieked and it was then that I knew my youngest was in love. She laughed and looked at her daddy daringly, and then turned and sprinted to the water...which took my breath away, considering their was a very significant rip tide due to the storm. Scott caught her and swung her up high in the air, laughing and protesting at the same time, promising that the swimming pool would be just as fun to our little girl.
Friday morning, we poured over the local weather and decided it would be our best day to make anything out of the trip. Scott had to be on several business calls and couldn't get away from the room until after lunch, so after watching the girls bounce off the walls (quite literally...it was a long condo and they would sprint and bounce themselves off the door and then run the entire length and bounce off the sliding glass doors, shrieking and laughing. I'm surprised we weren't kicked out before it was time to leave!), I decided to try the beach with them by myself.
Now, let me just give you a little background on myself here. I am not crazy about the water, ocean or otherwise, but especially the ocean. I remember very clearly being excited to get to the beach as a youngster and running out only to hit the water and have my legs pulled flat out from under me. It was traumatic and I have always been hesitant to go out in too high waves that have any potential in going over my head.
That being said, I was nervous about the rip tide and seeing my youngest run towards the water like it was the coolest thing since sliced bread so I gave them my best warning speech on the storm on the way down in the elevator.
"Now, we are going to the beach and the ocean is angry because there is a storm," I said. "Most of the time, the ocean is happy and a good place for children, but we have to be careful today. If you go in, you have to hold Mommy's hand..."
So we made our way out and found a spot to begin building our sandcastle (the main objective of the day, according to Elizabeth, who had never made a sandcastle) and set to work. The sky was scary looking just down the beach, but I figured we had a half hour until it got to us and I really wasn't sure what the rest of the day would look like. And I really wanted that sandcastle for my child.
We started digging and turning over buckets of packed sand, which they both joyfully demolished. And then I announced that I would go down and get us some water to make our sand easier to pack. They both looked at me, concerned that I would venture to the angry ocean, and then followed on my heels. I got Rachel's hand before the first wave hit our feet, but not Elizabeth's and the water was so strong that even the the action of rolling back into the sea pulled her down, and rolled her over, sending water and sand everywhere and giving me a strong sense of deja vu. She came up coughing, crying, and applying a death grip to my leg swearing never to go in the angry ocean again. Unfortunately, this is my second picture - angry, sand-covered, wet Elizabeth.
I bundled up my now two crying children (Rachel is a sympathy crier) and began our trek to the indoor pool, where we played as the storm made it's way down the beach and beat against the glass.
Later that day, Scott got to make it down to the beach with us and I got my third picture. The sun was trying it's best to come out and the rain had stopped, although the wind was still strong and made the air cool against the skin. Elizabeth, still scarred from the morning, yelled at the ocean that she wasn't going near it and decided to go on sit-down strike in the sand, packing more buckets of sand, turning them over, and then playing Godzilla. Rachel, on the other hand, was more than happy to be her daddy's side kick in the water and the two of them decided to battle the strong waves.
My youngest is a daredevil and is fearless in the water. So I have to admit to you that my heart really stopped beating the entire time they were playing, but the sight was so awesome of the two of them that I really couldn't complain. The waves hit her and she would laugh...she'd fall to her butt and he'd pick her up and she'd laugh. Only once did she really take a tumble that scared her, but even in her fear, she was wrenching to get down again. And Scott laughed...I mean really laughed...the kind that come when seeing your child experience true joy and something new for the first time.
I ended up
dragging carrying Elizabeth down to the edge and holding her on my lap as the water came over our legs and she tolerated that for a little while, only to sprint back up to the buckets and shovels when I loosened my grip. When their teeth started chattering, we made our way back up to the condo and I got my fourth picture.
Stephanie stopped by to visit and join us for dinner. She was on my first pitching staff as a young college coach and to see her as a grown, happy woman, expecting her first little baby boy was such a blessing. She and her husband live near Gulf Shores, so I let her know as soon as we had planned the trip and hoped we could meet up. We chatted and caught up like time hadn't gone by and it hadn't been five years since we'd seen each other. When she left, the girls gave her hugs and kisses and Elizabeth was very concerned about where she had gone and when we'd see her again.
Coaching at the college level is such a challenging experience because you are dealing with young men and women at a very growing-up point in their lives. They are out of the house for the first time and are truly becoming the people they're going to be...and you're a part of that. Scott and I both miss the human component of that and the kids we were both close to...so to see them happy and successful on the other side just makes your heart smile.
My final picture came Friday night, after getting both girls to bed, as I settled into my husband's arms on the couch. It was a very cushy couch and gave towards the middle, so it was easy to put my head on his shoulder and watch the first game of college football season and the storm roll in off the water. I think it was Hurricane Floyd that came through while I was at Campbell and it was scary enough being inland - but seeing the wind come off the water was something else. We felt so fortunate to have gotten the few moments that we did with the girls on the beach and to see their excitement, not to mention to even be able to afford a couple days away with the current economy.
So packing up and heading out the next morning - a day early - left us a little heavy-hearted, but we didn't want to get trapped by the 15 inches of rain the weather man was predicting. Waving goodbye to the ocean, Elizabeth called out, "Bye beach! See you next time!" making our hearts swell once again and reminding us that we remain thankful that it is our family that brings us joy, and not necessarily the "extras" in life, like vacations...
Hope you and yours have a blessed Labor Day!