We returned from our family reunion in the Outer Banks (specifically, in Duck, NC, in case my title was overly subtle) one week ago, and for various reasons, re-entry from this vacation has been even harder than usual. After seven days of sea breezes and backyard pool access, we came back to find our city shrouded in unbearable heat and humidity, and upon entering our one-thousand-degree (backyard-less AND pool-less) apartment we discovered a dead roach in the middle of the foyer, a broken water dispenser on our fridge, and the scent of stale cat litter wafting through the torpid air. All week, it felt like I was on fire as I shambled on swollen feet from home to work and back again, wanting to shake my fist at the garbage/hobo toilet smells and the blistering exhalations of every passing bus and taxi cab.
On top of summer's oppressive misery was the lingering melancholy of the leaving -- over the past decade, my immediate family has somehow been centrifuged to three out of the four corners of the country, which means it takes immense effort to get us all into one place for even a brief period of time, and gives one the sense of always leaving someone, or having been left.
But rather than dwell on the goodbyes, let's view some highlights, with color commentary provided by a certain Felicity:
"Mama! Find some pretty shells for me, for my collection."
"I don't want Mama to go out on the boogie board! Only Daddy. I want Daddy to swim far out." Then, while she was at the pool with my parents for a long stretch and I was on the beach, out of the blue she exclaimed, "I need to go to the beach! I need to check on my mom."
After my dad and my nephew coaxed her into swimming back and forth between them by herself (with floaties on): "I'm doing it by myself! Before I said, I can't, but now I CAN! I couldn't do it before, but then I learned and now I CAN!"
After swimming the length of the pool and climbing up the stairs with her arms raised in victory: "Say bravo, Mama!"
While giving my nephew one of about ten thousand hugs: "I'm hugging him because he's my cousin!" (She gave my niece lots of hugs too -- Felicity is big on randomly diving at her friends and family with unbridled affection -- but her boy cousin has the advantage of being a few years older, and she is CRAZY about bigger kids, especially ones who are so incredibly gentle and sweet with her, as he is.)
While inspecting the legions of dead dragonflies and crickets amassed by the side of the pool: "I LOVE bugs! I even love tarantulas."
All the kids got to bathe together in a big jetted tub, but Felicity had to overcome some initial fears of the bubbles before she could have the full jacuzzi experience. On the second night, she announced well before bath time that she was ready: "I want to take a bath with the jets! I am a big girl now, and I love the jets."
One rainy afternoon, when absolutely no one felt like swimming, Felicity asked her Granddad if he would go in the pool with her, and of course he said yes. She pumped her fist in the air and yelled, "YES! We are definitely doing that!"
One evening, my brother and I had a private chef come to our rental house (pardon me, Felicity always corrects me when I use the word house -- to describe any dwelling, not just this one -- "Mama. It's not a house. It's a home.") and cook dinner for the lot of us, in celebration of my parents' 45th anniversary (which was the genesis of the whole get-together). It was every bit as awesome as it sounds -- the guy brought in all of his own cooking accoutrements, made us a delicious multi-course meal, and cleaned everything up before slipping out while the rest of us lolled about in a food coma.
When he brought out the platters of appetizers, Felicity ate her body weight in bacon-wrapped scallops, then noticed that there was kale garnishing each plate. Not only did she tear into the garnish, but she brought around pieces to serve to each of us, insisting that we eat it: "Look! KALE! I love kale!"
Even though I had some trouble sleeping in our dream-home of a rental palace (I am so weird about houses -- we can basically never live anywhere but in an apartment, because I will never sleep again, such is the depth of my anxiety about being in a home that's free-standing and has more than five rooms), the whole trip was more or less perfect (not to mention that we had virtually hassle-free travel days on both ends) as was the company. Much as I hate that we've been flung around so far from one another, the time we do have together is ever so sweet.