There were eleven (a couple were sick), all lined up like cord wood and waiting for the mamas to hit the sand so they could dive in.
There was a basket, filled to the brim with fart-putty and markers and blue nail polish and candy prizes ready to be picked through by kids in pjs or dried-on swimsuits and a clever Nana calling the Bingo numbers
There was squeeze cheese mac for lunch because it’s Wil’s favorite and just special enough for a cousin sleep over, especially when accompanied by ten pounds of fresh bluebs from Kamphuis.
There was a girls tent on the left and a boys on the right and one was much quieter and one was much smellier and I think it’s a no-brainer to figure out which was which.
There were hours of tubing behind the Sea-Doo, Papa’s hair big and poufy and small fingers wrinkled and sore from holding on so tightly. So tightly. ‘Specially during Death Ride.
There was midnight swimming (even though it was really only ten) and no brushing teeth and two days without changing clothes at all.
There were sisters sharing a bed like days passed, only this time with Lulu in between, holding pink tightly in her sleep while a soft, warm breeze ruffled her sweaty curls. Sisters whispering, “I love you” over Lulu while they drifted off to sleep while all their progeny snored softly in tents in the front.
There were pumpkin coconut pampcakes and sausages and Philly pork roll since, did I tell you my little sister and her boyfriend are home from Philly for a coupla days? And lots of sticky fingers after, rubbing sunscreen and listening (or not) to admonitions to not forget noses and ears. You know how yucky it is to be burned, so go thick and be safe children.
There was one sister at home, missed so much, caring with her giant heart for a sick girl not her own, but quickly worming her way in while girl’s brother celebrated his first birthday in America on the deck with new slippery clothes and Superman ice cream. Such a gift to see that unfold.
There was one Nana and one Papa, now both prolly in white bed, breathing deeply and dreaming of doing it all again soon, welcoming us in with open arms and showing us such a good time. Such a good time.
There is one place, my favorite on this earth maybe, that has been ours for 35 years and that has us all in tears each summer when we gather around the server for the first family meal and clasp hands and wonder at the gift we have in this address that bids us come and be together and make sweet memories of sand in toes and smiles on faces and freckles sprinkled across yummy noses. Father, we do not deserve this. Not even sort of. But we’ll take it with open hands and thank you for every summer we are given it. And we will tell stories of things we did then and what we’ll do soon and how very much fun it’ll be. And we will drink icy lemonade and solve problems on the beach, where they are best solved, while kids swim and Papa pulls and the dogs chase birds. And we’ll wrap it all up with a trip to the Cap’n for a Snickerin’ Sailor with extra whipped cream and we’ll kiss the smudges off pink cheeks and then pile in for a sleepy ride back home. But before we hit the Cap’n there will be twenty something of us waving goodbye and thanking Nana and Papa and saying, “See you Sunday! I’ll bring a salad and some chips.” And there will be them, standing in the yard and waving until we beep ourselves over the hill and then trudging wearily in to tidy up and collapse on the couch. And, I don’t have proof, but I think it’s certain, they will hold hands and say, pinch me-that was the best day ever. It’s certain.
This is me being real. Thankful for thirteen cousins masquerading as best friends who think the perfect summer mystery trip is anything that includes each other and Nana and Papa. So thankful.