Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Those Places Thursday - Family Vacations at Virginia Beach

Sunrise at Virginia Beach, July 2011

When I was growing up I really thought that everyone took vacations to places like Virginia Beach, VA.  I loved going to Virginia Beach (referred to from here on simply as "the Beach").  Each year we would start asking my father if we were going to be going on vacation sometime around March.  The answer was always the same..."Maybe".  That was good enough as a "Yes" to a kid and I was a planner so I'd start April.  

Aimee and Cherie Tabor playing on Virginia Beach know...the things that a 5 or 6 or 7 year old would pack for a trip.  My sisters and I couldn't contain our excitement about going.  What we didn't realize at the time was that it was always a matter of money as to whether or not we could go.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, my father was (to put it kindly) employment-challenged for the majority of my life, but little kids don't really understand that.  When we would go, most times, it was because my mom was the general manager at the local Holiday Inn and either got the hotel room for free or a really discounted price.

My mom, Alice, with Aimee and me at VA Beach
The hotel room was always right on the beach and had a balcony over-looking the ocean.  It was heaven to me.  To be able to go out onto the balcony in the dark and not be able to see the ocean but to listen to it.  Listening to the waves crashing  close by, but just far enough out to not really be able to see them was so cool.  It's a peaceful sound to me.  Probably because it brings back some happy childhood memories.  Back when my mom and dad were still married and my family unit was still whole.  That's not to say that my life wasn't happy after that, but divorce makes an impression on a child and children are generally that casualties of those types of war and "war" was a pretty apt term for what happened.  That's another post, however, and this is a much more happy memory.

Benjamin and Daniel Cayemberg collecting shells at VA Beach
We would wake up in the mornings and my mom would make breakfast.  It was a requirement for the hotel room to have a kitchenette so she could cook and we could save money.  Then we'd go to the beach and play in the sand or in the water and then head back to the hotel room for my mom to make lunch.  Dinner was the one meal that was at a restaurant.  This was a big deal for us because there wasn't much restaurant eating for us during the year and I was an incredibly picky eater.  This was irritating for my father.  He'd take us to a wonderful seafood restaurant at the beach and I would get a hamburger.  We'd go to an Italian restaurant and I'd get a hamburger.  We'd go to any restaurant and I would get a hamburger.  He hated that.

My husband and kids at VA Beach
Why wouldn't I try crab legs?  Shrimp? Lobster?  To me I would think, "Why would I want to eat something that looks fairly close to what it looked like when it was still crawling around?"  My older and younger sisters enjoyed that stuff, but you couldn't get me to touch it with a 10 foot pole!  And my burger...yeah...well-done, baby.  It had been sent back a number of times by my mom who would sarcastically tell the waiter to have them burn it.  She enjoyed her meat pink...not meant blood.  I've grown out of that.  I eat my beef medium and try new my waistline unfortunately has started to show since I said good-bye to the Army and people whipping my butt into shape!

Rick and Danny on VA Beach at sunrise

Still, even with the craziness of my awful eating habits it was the height of the year for me.  We would get inflatable rafts and ride the waves in.  They call it body surfing now, I suppose, and I had so much fun doing it.  It was hard to get my little sister, Aimee, and I out of the water to do anything else and my dad would body surf with us.  Great fun.

My other favorite thing to do was to visit the souvenir shops along the beach.  Yeah, I can appreciate today that they are pretty much filled with crap, but to a kid it was awesome crap!  We never got to buy too much, but every now and then, when my dad had an employed year, we'd be able to get some souvenirs.  I remember a wind up dolphin that would float in the bathtub and swim around.  It lasted a couple weeks before it died.  They still make them by the way!

I will always have fond memories of the Beach although as an adult I can look back and understand that it wasn't perfect.  What is?  But the memories are perfect.  Pure joy.  Pure innocence as a child oblivious to all the difficulties of the world.  Just having fun.

I wanted my two boys to share in those experiences, so this year as we drove from Texas to Pennsylvania to see my family, the Beach was one of those places we had to stop at.  It looked the same.  The hotels, the shops, the beach.  Not much changed.  People still plucking jellyfish out of the water and poking them.  Sitting on towels and kids playing in the sand.  No body surfing for my 5 year old, but my 10 year old and husband did enjoy riding some waves sans raft/board.  The little one and I contented ourselves with jumping over the waves and staying cool.

The sunrise over the Atlantic
We had fun, but I realized that it wasn't the same type of fun my husband had when he was a kid.  His family lived in Wisconsin and would go camping.  We shared childhood memories of vacations and I realized that we both looked back on our different experiences with such fondness...both had somewhat different ideas of what a family vacation was, but we managed to give our kids a taste of both his childhood and mine.  I wonder what they'll think of our family vacations when they are grown and have children of their own.  Hopefully, we've given them some great experiences.

Thanks for reminiscing with me.