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Life's a Beach By Shelley Murphy
Life’s a Beach
By Shelley Murphy

I always look forward to summer vacations spent flying to familiar sandy beaches and the anticipation of adventurous family fun.

But this summer we’re not taking our traditional vacation, instead we’re departing on a daunting trip—an adventure unlike any before. I’m not traveling abroad but I’ll explore new territory so foreign that it should require my passport.

Preparing for this trip I won’t be packing the usual blockbuster book, new bathing suit or favorite beach bag.  Instead I’ll load up on Kleenex, eye drops and waterproof makeup.

This summer changes everything.

We tried scheduling our annual family vacation, but the calendar wouldn’t cooperate. My older son accepted a couple internships employing him throughout the summer and that’s good news.  The bad news is that it leaves no time to book our vacation.

A few summers ago, after our older son graduated from high school, we took a special cruise to commemorate the occasion. This summer my younger son misses out on a celebratory vacation to mark his recent milestone.

Some friends suggested my husband, younger son and I still take the vacation.  But it wouldn’t be the same, I’d miss my older son. Friends assured me after two days I’d get over his absence. Sure I would, and I wouldn’t miss my right arm much after a couple days either.

Then a friend proposed we have our younger son bring a buddy along. I do love many of my son’s friends like family but, again, it’s not the same.

Next month we’ll take a trip we’ve been preparing and saving for the past eighteen years. Our younger son chose the destination, and the dreaded departure date is circled on my calendar. We’ve received our itinerary, list of planned activities and tours we’re scheduled to take on the trip.

We won’t be visiting an amusement park, like when our boys were little, yet I know I’m in for a roller coaster ride pitted with steep drops and surprising turns.

Before we load the car and leave home, I’ll help pack-up my son whom I’ve cooked, cleaned and cared for over the past eighteen years. My husband and I will share one suitcase. Our son will take bags containing most his belongings—but he’ll still need new necessities for the trip.

I’ve collected lists of supplies my son supposedly needs to take with him.  The essential items are carefully categorized and full of stuff my son won’t use or want once he arrives.

The lengthy list of goods reminds me of the labor and delivery must-haves I read about in pregnancy books and relied on when packing my bag for the hospital.   I followed their detailed instructions and packed lollipops the nurses wouldn’t let me eat; massage rollers I wouldn’t let my husband come near me with; and soothing scented lotions too nauseating to uncap.

Examining the lists carefully I weeded through the useful and useless items, some useful items include: extra-long twin sheet sets, reusable water bottles, bath towels and a first-aid kit.

The many useless items include: a funnel, salt and pepper shakers, envelopes, folding chairs and far too much junk to ever fit into my son’s cubicle like collegiate accommodations.

Arriving at our destination, it’ll take only a couple hours to help our son unpack and move everything into his freshman dorm room. Then my husband and I will say goodbye to our younger son and drive away from campus.

When our trip is over, we’ll head home minus one traveler and the customary souvenirs, but somehow I’ll find myself with more baggage than I brought.

Returning to our empty nest I won’t have anything to show from my trip. I won’t have earned a stamp in my passport proving I survived my most foreign and life-changing trip to date.

Our summer trip changes everything and when it ends we’ll embark on a new journey—an uncharted adventure for our entire family.

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