James has no idea he has a 12-hour car ride ahead of him. (Andy is tying the gate to the top of the van, after we ran out of room inside of the van.)
I’m pretty sure I packed most everything baby-related in the house.
We listened to Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” and the boys laugh and cry, and Sophie laugh and ask how much longer (over and over and over) throughout the drive. We also managed to drive through tar, which Andy had to scrape off with a tire iron (he didn’t want to use the tire iron, but resorted to it after stepping in a mound of fire ants and through poison ivy while trying to find a suitable stick, instead). Somehow, stuff like this always happens to us on car trips.
Sometimes, the beach seemed very far away. To all of us. But all in all, Sophie did as well as can be expected considering she’s 3. Especially because she refused to play with any of her toys (including a new one, gifted to her from us specifically for the trip) or watch any of her DVDs on the portable DVD player because, as she said, she wanted to “save them all for the beach.” So, for the most part, she sat in her seat and looked out the window the entire drive, despite our repeated attempts to convince her that it was OK to play with her toys and watch her shows during the drive and at the beach. Andy claims this personality trait, unreasonable stubbornness, is my fault. Stubbornness, maybe. Unreasonable, no. I’m sure, in her mind, her patience was entirely reasonable. But oh did it make for a long trip for her. I still don’t know how she did it.
We ended up spending the night at Katy and Tom’s house, in Winston-Salem, NC. We arrived around 2am. Katy and Tom graciously moved Colleen to their room, and I put James in Colleen’s crib, Owen in Colleen’s pack-and-play, and then spent two hours trying to convince them that it was 2am, not morning. I ended up sleeping, in my clothes, in the nursery’s glider. We were up at 7am (why is it children never sleep in?) and on the road again.
More Dickens. More laughing. More crying. More not playing or watching anything (other than the passing scenery outside the van windows, growing more and more ocean-like the longer we drove) from Sophie.
I think car trips are most difficult for crawlers. An infant’s idea of stretching is simply being held. A toddler or child’s idea of stretching is running around (easy to do at a rest stop). But a crawler needs to crawl and clean crawling space is often difficult to come by. So stops for food often turned into outdoor picnics—here we’re eating at a school, closed up for the summer. (And here, although still many miles away, we could finally smell the ocean. I loved that.)
We made it—our beach house in Ocean Isle Beach, NC.
Owen meeting his cousin Colleen for the first time.
Owen shoving his finger in Colleen’s eye for the first time.
All four children seeing the ocean for the first time.
James eating sand for the first time.
And I cried, for the first of many times, during this trip. I spent many summer vacations as a child at the beach. And even as a little girl I knew, someday, I would take my family to the ocean. And I crave the ocean. And it had been a long time. And something about the heavy ocean-scented air; and watching Sophie, wide-eyed as she took in the enormity of it all; and seeing the small marks my sons made as they crawled through shell-littered sand for the first time; and putting the tip of my finger in my mouth so as to taste the salt (as I always do)—I was overcome. And grateful. And suddenly, the long drive and lack of sleep seemed totally, totally worth it.
“Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car.” —E.B. White