I've always lived near the beach, which means that I pretty much took sand, warm water and palm trees for granted. Until I moved to New England, that is. Now, in this land of the eternal winter, I crave nothing more than a sipping a mojito while listening to steel drums, or in a pinch, Jimmy Buffett. Because, as any tropical beach bum will happily tell you, kitsch is an important part of the beach experience.
Massachusetts has its beaches - Nantucket and the Vineyard, and of course Cape Cod - but we've always escaped to Miami to get our beach fix. We felt the beaches here were too boring (there are no palm trees to be seen!), the dining too full of fried foods, the cost too exorbitant, and the weather too unpredictable to really make for an enjoyable beach vacation. I wanted my boys to have the memories that I had - of playing in the turquoise water, finding sand dollars and ducking jellyfish frying on the sand, of drinking water straight from coconuts. But I'm too pregnant to even consider going to Miami in the summer, and we never quite got our act together to fly anywhere so we were forced to plan a beach vacation here or make do with the sprinklers.
We booked a last-minute vacation and drove down Rt. 3. And then a funny thing happened: We fell in love with the Cape.
The boys didn't see any sea horses or dolphins, but they hunted for crabs of the hermit and not-so-hermit variety.
Instead of lying on hammocks strung between palm trees, we made our way to the beach on boardwalks over dunes and lush vegetation.
We were never guaranteed full sun, but it didn't matter to the boys. They still had fun digging holes that would get them "all the way to Australia!"
Instead of bougainvillea, there were beautiful blue hydrangeas everywhere.
We were surprised to show up at the beach one day during low tide and find that the waters had receded past the sea grass, making the beach twice as big and allowing the boys a peek at what lives under the beach rocks.
As I sat on my beach chair, enjoying the cool (yes, cool!) breeze and watching my boys splash away in the distance I realized that their childhood memories of the beach will be very different from mine.
That they will remember gray cottages and charming town main streets instead of colorful beach huts and endless miles of warm tropical sand.
That they will probably learn to appreciate fried clams instead of stone crabs.
I'm OK with that. Because while the kitsch may be different up here, the relaxed vibe is the same.