LAUGHLINES: Slumming It at the Beach

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Sometimes your memories crash into reality and you realize the past should stay there.

A few years ago, we rented the beachfront vacation house my parents rented 30 years before, when we were kids. I was thrilled since my kids, Claire and Ben, were about the age I was when we enjoyed our seaside stay.

I remembered this old house as a charming little cottage by the sea, with big comfy couches, cozy little bedrooms, and a wide front porch looking out on the ocean. It’ll be great, I told my husband Matt.

It wasn’t cheap. One week’s rent was equivalent to a few car payments, but this was a trip to make memories. I could imagine the smell of the salt air wafting through open windows, and Matt and I watching the kids frolic on the sand. And sex on the beach was a real possibility, I told my husband, who immediately started packing the car.

The first sign this wasn’t going to be a dream vacation was our trouble opening the front door. It wasn’t locked. It was stuck. Maybe the house had settled?

The back door was open, since, well, there wasn’t a back door, just a screen door — with no screen.

Okay, kids, this is an adventure, I announced, as I wandered into the kitchen. Nothing has changed, I said with a smile, but it struck me that was the problem. Nothing had changed. Same oven and fridge, circa 1962. Same linoleum . . . same kitschy Formica-steel dining room table with mismatched chairs . . .  same shag carpeting . . . same black and white TV with rabbit ears.

Hmmm. Not as palatial as the week’s rent led me to believe, but that was okay – we were at the beach!

Yes, we were, and if we had camped out ON the beach, that would’ve been great. Every time we went indoors, calamity ensued. The pipes rattled when we flushed the toilet. The “small, cozy” bedrooms were the size of a hall closet. The kitchen ceiling leaked when someone took a shower, the fuses blew when I made toast, and there were spiders the size of Buicks in the living room (apparently even the wildlife didn’t want to venture upstairs).

Sure, the salt air was wonderful, the view terrific, but a quick walk up and down the beach confirmed that our house was THE dump. We were surrounded by palatial homes, with our poor rundown shack the neighborhood eyesore.

The kids didn’t mind, and they had a great time swimming and looking for crabs, snails and starfish.  Matt didn’t mind either, since with all those spiders, I stayed on the beach well past sundown. That meant lots of sex on the beach, every night, until I figured the spiders had gone to sleep and/or I was too tired to care.

And me? I’ve decided that yes, memories are wonderful, and reality can be, too, but only if it comes with clean towels, cable TV and a room at the Holiday Inn.

About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.

  • Kathy Trombly

    Spiders the size of Buicks! That would keep me outside!

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