Thank You, Beach House

With a nod to Jimmy Fallon.

In my life, beach vacations have been the most debilitating and the most exhilarating. This current beach vacation can only be classified as the latter and certainly not the former.

We three friends left home in the rain for a beach vacation in Emerald Isle, NC. Torrents to drizzles, downpours to respites, we made our way fearlessly for three hours down I-40, NC-24, and Highway 58 to Emerald Isle, one of the small towns on one of North Carolina’s many barrier islands. The air saturated our lungs, the sky resembled old clothes that had grayed to the point of sadness, yet we cared not. We were determined and, to a degree, intrepid. We were on vacation. Check-in for our beach house was Saturday, and we were going to get there as soon as we could manage.

On the way, pit stops were necessary, and McDonald’s was just the place. I’m not certain what town we were in, but we heard a young child in the restaurant declare, “Thank you, Jesus, for the ice cream!” We knew then it was time to pile back into the car and finish our trip.

Our first day was soggy to the point of having unload the car between rain events. Electronics, laptops, plus alcohol and wine made it into the shelter of the beach house first. Later came the suitcases, bags of paper products, and packages of food. The beach equipment could wait. We had priorities.

Upon entering the beach house, after climbing the multitude of steps to the entry, N stood in awe of her temporary surroundings, overwhelmed, never having experienced a vacation avec beach before. She marveled at the two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. As N sighed, clapped her hands, and hugged me, I felt a rush of happiness myself: We had delighted our dear friend, and I was at the beach again.

Once the car was emptied, we three did what any fun-loving, red-blooded, intellectual American women would do: Made drinks and then strolled the beach. We did not feel any need whatsoever to proclaim, “Thank you, Jesus, for the ocean and the beach house!” Fortunately, the NC legislature hasn’t come up with a bill forcing us to make such declarations. N and I volunteered to grocery shop for the few items we required while B volunteered to stay back and make up the beds. If I were religious, I may have shouted, “Thank you, Jesus,” but I thought, “Thank you, B,” was more appropriate and to the point.

Because half of the beach rental check-ins occur on Saturday, the small Food Lion in Emerald Isle was bumper-to-bumper and butt-to-butt with shoppers stocking up for their week at the beach. Fortunately, our list was miniscule compared to others’, and shopping for us was quick enough to not cause me extreme boredom. It wasn’t until I noticed six active check-out lanes and only two baggers that I started to wonder how much of a savings I’d actually get by using my Food Lion MVP card. N and I began to bag our groceries, knowing that we’d be there forever if we didn’t. But when the check-out girl, who scanned items as if she had a gun held to her head, grabbed the bag of bulk mushrooms from my hands and tossed them plastic shopping bag, I grabbed them back from her and put them where I knew they wouldn’t get damaged. She was about to load heavier items on top my mushrooms, and sure, there were other people in that line, waiting to check out and get on with their week at the beach, but I certainly wasn’t going to have my mushrooms mushed by bad bagging. It was only later that I noticed the receipt screamed, “You saved $10.57 using your MVP card!” Thank you, Food Lion!

We filled the rest of Saturday with books, drinks, laughs, giggles, and a trip to Atlantic Beach for dinner. (Warning: Never order drinks without noticing first if they’re frozen or on the rocks. “Frozen” is a bad thing to do to Southern Comfort and Peach Schnapps, and when the surprise whipped cream on top is a distant cousin of Cool-Whip, it’s a truly bad thing. I should have just ordered my usual, a Bloody Mary.) N and I had the same burger, and I believe we learned something in the process. Neither of us wanted the BBQ sauce that came with it. I told the waitress I didn’t want the sauce at all. N asked the server to put it on the side. My burger was just fine. N’s burger, which came with a small container of the (in my case uninvited) BBQ sauce on the side, may have had enough of a hint of BBQ *ON* it to alert us to the fact that one must be ultra-specific when ordering changes to your meal. The good part of the entire meal adventure was that I could still see water from where I was seated inside and even though it was 8:30 in the evening.

Sunday offered near perfection. Strolls on the beach. Sun on the beach. Fluffy clouds over the ocean, woolly and tufted in the distance, wispy and slender near the beach. Breezes and wind kisses as we gathered on the porch to read. Drinks to fortify us gently.

We read. We stretched. We sighed. We stared at the waves. We listened to the relentless surf. We admired the American brown pelicans as they cruised the beach. An as-yet unidentified, sand-colored bird sat vigil on the beach, and exhibited a patience that amazed us. Life was not merely good; life was exquisite.

Later that evening, I checked the local television station for the weather forecast. Rain. For the rest of the week. Well, all right, varying percentages of a chance of rain each day, but the highest percentages were for Monday and Tuesday. We only have Monday and Tuesday because N returns to Chicago on Wednesday!

Giving in to the possibility of rain and more rain, I left a voice mail for because I needed to know the departure times for the ferry that would transport us to Cape Lookout to see the barrier island and the lighthouse. Neither their brochure nor their web site indicates the departure times for the Cape Lookout tours, but reservations, it tells us, are required. My detailed phone message asked about the possibilities of reservations for three adults for either Monday or Tuesday, times of departure, and would they please call me back. I would have to be content for the moment, knowing that I had done what I could under the circumstances. I hoped they would call me back in the morning, and I hoped that the weather wouldn’t be nearly as depressing as the weather guy had predicted.

All I could do was read myself to sleep.

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