My Perfect Moment is captured in this ten second clip:
On Thursday, we decided to go to Chincoteague for the weekend because we hadn't yet been this summer. I think we love the island so much not just because it is literally the greatest beach for crazy birders and non-nature-loving-but-commercialism-hating people alike, but because it is a location that Josh and I collectively peed on to mark as our own at the beginning of our relationship. We have no prior memories of the place with other people; no vacations with ex's that get dredged up in our mind when we hit the town. Soon we will mark our ten year anniversary of visiting the island; ten years of sandy asses.
So I told the twins that I had to make a phone call and called up the Refuge Inn, which, if you're going to Chincoteague is the place to stay. We have given this more thought than is healthy and we've stayed in a lot of places. But now we only stay at the Refuge and we can say definitively that it is the best place because (1) it is locally-owned therefore, the money the business makes stays in the community, (2) they remember us year-to-year which may be because we are simply an unforgettable couple or it could be due to the copious amounts of toilet paper I use which leaves an impression, (3) it is perfectly situated so you don't have to drive your car the entire vacation. You can ride your bike onto the nature reserve and go to the beach or you can ride your bike into town, (4) they serve breakfast and breakfast goes in a predictable pattern: eggs, french toast, waffles, (5) they are so friendly and kind that they even let us return to the hotel and use their pool shower this trip even though we had already checked out, (6) their rooms are fantastic and large, (7) they have their own corral of ponies near the parking lot, and (8) they have a little stopper on the bottom of the door so that crickets can't get in the room. Do you hear that, other hotels? These people care about my cricket phobia.
So I hung up the phone after securing a room and went back in the kitchen. "Guess who just planned a vacation for us to Chincoteague for this weekend?" I asked smugly.
And without a hint of irony, the ChickieNob looked up from her art project and said, "Aunt Gretel?"
"What? No...you just saw...I told you I was on the phone...I made the reservation."
"So Aunt Gretel didn't plan the vacation?" the ChickieNob asked with a hint of fear that my vacation prowess cannot match my sister's and that I have essentially just booked us for a week-long trip to a Field of Terrors.
My sister is better at planning vacations being that she is more organized and more responsible. But I pulled this trip off and on Friday, had packed all of our bags and had them lined up at the front door so we could get on the road the moment Josh returned home. We set out for Chincoteague with hope in our heart that we'd somehow miraculously make it over the Bay Bridge without traffic which was cruelly dashed by an hour-long wait at the bridge which became increasingly more fun once we taught the Wolvog to sing "Helter Skelter," video taped him singing it, and emailed it to my brother. All from the front seat of the car due to my Sprint Blackberry Tour. I love that toy so much. Thank you, Sprint, for Dr. Pangloss.
On Saturday, we headed out to the beach,
which we had mostly to ourselves.
With gorgeous blue skies despite earlier warnings of rain,
and mostly happy faces despite the Great Suntan Lotion Tantrum of 2009.
What I love about the beach off-season is not just that we have it all to ourselves, but how small it can make you feel when you don't have the distraction of other people around:
We spent about six hours collecting sea shells and digging holes and the ChickieNob just stood in the water for three straight hours, beckoning to the waves with one hand, as if she were calling them forth to the beach.
The beach was where we first noted the Domino Coveting Effect (DCE). Two men came down to the beach with their young baby and posed for each other holding their newborn. I could not stop watching. The baby was tiny and perfect and dressed in a small Winnie the Pooh outfit. Finally, the men asked me if I would take their picture together with their daughter and I agreed.
"I was just admiring your daughter," I called out to them as I set up the shot, which is a more socially acceptable way of saying that I was coveting their child.
"She's two-months old today!" they crowed. They shared her name and the story of her name and had that giddiness only seen in people who have coupled a distinct lack of sleep with a child who has come after a long wait. They went back to their car and I continued to play a game of catch with the Wolvog which involved me gently tossing him a ball which he allowed to land in the sand and then having him chuck it with surprising speed at my knees, belly, or head.
The couple to our left watched us for a long time and finally said in this wistful voice, "they're so cute. They're just so cute."
Which made me wonder if they were also infertile--if we had just happened upon the perfect storm of situationally- and biologically-infertile people all at the same beach. But it turned out the couple wasn't yet married. They were maybe in their mid-thirties and the woman had the look of someone who wished she was married and having children. We spent some time talking by the water, and every so often, she would become distracted by the kids again and murmur, "they're just so cute" in a way that broke my heart.
Josh commented on it over Vietnamese food that night (which, if you do go to Chincoteague, the best place to eat on the island is Saigon Village. The food is always amazing--so good that I had to stop by for veggie rolls to go on our way out of town and say goodbye to the owner until next summer). "You were coveting the men's baby while the woman next to you was coveting your life. And that couple is probably sitting somewhere tonight and a single person is walking by thinking, 'at least they're a couple.' And a homeless person is seeing the single person and thinking, 'at least she has a home."
"It just continues for every single person in the world until we're all lying prone like dominos--unable to move forward or stand up for the wanting. So what were the men with the baby coveting?" I asked.
"Your government recognized marriage?"
It gave food for thought how much we as a society covet and where that coveting gets us.
At night, we walked around town. Maybe what else I like about Chincoteague is that it's small-town America. It's so American that it makes apple pie look French. Many of the beach towns on the eastern shore are geared towards tourists with the thought that summer is their booming time and most towns empty out by the end of August. But Chincoteague is just a regular town which sees more traffic in the summer, but is still a tight-knit community through the winter. You can visit it any time of year and find most of the businesses still open, the library still renting out books.
It's the sort of town where everyone gathers on the street for a fair, the sixteen-year-olds just as happy to have some place to go as the forty-year-olds with newborns. We ate ice cream at the Creamery (there are two ice cream places in town, and we are firmly a Creamery family. Creamery, Creamery, Creamery all the way, now and forever) and Josh promised the ChickieNob that next summer, they would tackle the Roundup, a grotesque amount of ice cream that needs to be consumed in a single sitting in order to make it onto their wall of fame.
After another morning at the beach, we piled back in the car and headed over the land bridge, sniffling the whole way. It is always hard to leave even though it never changes. We go back year after year, to the same hotel, the same restaurants, the same evenings at the ice cream shop. I love the stability of the vacation.
And I love when we cross the Bay Bridge and we pass St. Peter's Church in Queenstown, Maryland. It feels like that's when every vacation begins--when we pass that church. This year, Josh stopped the car so I could get out and photograph the building. The graveyard was screaming with crickets so I only crept so far onto the grass before I turned my flip flops around and ran back to the safety of the pavement. But there was something so silencing, so stilling, about leaving the 65 mph traffic of Route-50, to walk behind this quiet building and mark the end of a vacation.
See what others are saying were the perfect moments they found this week.