"I hope you always have a shell in your pocket...and sand in your shoes."
Ahhhh.....Instant relaxation when I look at this photograph. What is it about the beach and being at the ocean that allures us? What is it that makes land-locked travelers such as myself drive nine hours for a few days of oceanic bliss? Could it be the salt water smell in the air, the ocean breezes, the sounds as the tides ebb and flow? The endless supply of fresh seafood? My husband Michael and I just returned from a couples only (no kiddos) getaway in Panama City Beach, Florida. I can't describe how being on the beach changes my mind, body, and spirit. (I have been jokingly persuading my students for years that I have an evil twin, but maybe she is right!) I sleep better, can feel my body relax, my mind refresh, and stress goes away. In fact, I hardly recognize myself, and I wonder if the locals that are so lucky to live there appreciate it like I do. Although this trip was without our girls who went camping with Grandma Kathy and Pa Tony (Big shout-out to them!), almost all of my best best memories are with them. Here's my Top Ten Beach Memories.
10. Ft. Lauderdale, FL- My first visit to the beach. I was in 4th grade, had an afro hairdo, and a blue bikini. Yes, I was STYLIN'! Daddy, Mama, Beth, and I along with Aunt Jan, Chris, and Spencer rode in a 15 passenger van and stayed at a house owned by one of Papa John's friends. What I remember most was we had to cross a draw bridge to get to the beach, like Jimmy Buffet, I blew out a flip flop, and no one could understand what we said because of our accents. The sights, sounds, and smells amazed the young girl from Waterview, KY, and my love story with blue water and white sands had just began. This journey must have worn out my parents because it would be years before we returned.
9. College Spring Break Road Trip- My next trip to the beach was my Junior year in college. Melissa, Susie, Toshia and I (names have not been changed to protect the victims) loaded up in Susie's Chevy S10 pickup truck and headed to Panama City Beach. 2 girls rode in front, while the other two rode in the back of the truck bed. Hey, we had a camper top over the truck bed. We felt perfectly safe! Since all of us are now professionals and mothers, the details of this trip will not be elaborated, but I must say it was the most fun I have ever had, and I can still hear the guy hollering after Toshia: "Hey Ky, got any fried chicken??" (Note to Hannah and Micah-NO, you may not go to Florida for Spring Break, unless I go with you).
8. Atlantic Beach, NC- Michael and I were married in 1993 and moved to Wilson, North Carolina, which is about a 2 hour drive to the beach. You would think living this close to the ocean that we would visit more, but he was going to school full time and working at Lowe's part time. I was substitute teacher by day, grocery store clerk by night, and taught a GED class on the side. Yes, it was a glamorous life. We were so busy and consumed with our jobs and figuring out how to get through the first year of marriage, we went to the beach only a few times during that year. My favorite memory here was when Mama and Daddy visited. Daddy sunburned the top of his head and Mama laughed till she cried as they waves knocked us around. If I could go back to that time, I would take the time to make the trip to Atlantic Beach much more often because until I retire, hit the lottery, or run away-that's the closest I will probably ever live to an ocean.
7. 5th Wedding Anniversary Panama City Beach- this trip was so memorable because Michael planned it for us. I was struggling to finish graduate school, and I knew we couldn't really afford it, but 5 years was a milestone we felt must be celebrated. We didn't have kids yet and I remember worrying about our cat Rhett that Mama was keeping. He was sick the entire time we were gone. Our favorite place to eat was a restaurant called The Sunset which had a fresh seafood buffet, owned and operated by a sweet southern gentlemen who made a point to sit and talk with the patrons at each table. We didn't have a lot of money to spend on tourist attractions, so we enjoyed the beach-it was free.
6. Hannah's first trip to the beach Panama City- Hannah was 18 months old on this trip that we took with Jerry, Tammy, and Michelle. We loaded our car with a ton of Hannah's toys which she never touched. The sound of the ocean scared her and the sand irritated her so she sat in the beach chair with Michelle at the edge of the water and threw shells into the ocean. She had cute dog ears and her pacifier, and still wore diapers. Still a baby. I am wiping tears as I type. I cannot believe this same baby will be starting middle school in a few weeks.
5. Tie- Atlantic Beach, NC/Ft. Walton, FL- The next two years we went to two different beaches with two opposite outcomes. Atlantic Beach was a calm, relaxing trip. Michael swears it was his favorite place to stay-a Ramada Inn on the beach which kept a huge spotlight on the water at night. Hannah saw dolphins, wore out the rides at the amusement park, picked up a million shells, used a flashlight to hunt sandcrabs, and collapsed in deep slumber each night. She was just the right age to really enjoy the ocean. The next year was less memorable. We traveled to Ft. Walton, which was under a tropical storm watch. Tropical Storm Bill. We stayed 2 days and participated in all the indoor activities the area had to offer and then headed home. Folks, if tropical storms are this severe, I want no part of a hurricane. The morning we left, lodged underneath our van was the top of a palm tree. Needless to say, we got outa Dodge!
4.Micah's first beach trip-Gulf Shores, AL- I will always treasure this trip because it was Micah's first time at the ocean and it was the summer Daddy's cancer was in remission. Beth's family and mine made the journey and formed sweet memories that would comfort us a year later as the cancer returned with a vengeance and daddy passed away. When Bro. Todd asked daddy where we were all going for vacation, he replied, "LA." Confused, Bro Todd asked, "LA?" With that charming smile and eyes twinkling daddy replied, "Yep, Lower Alabama!" As he watched the kids play on the shore and sat on the deck with his coffee, I wonder if he knew how quickly things would change and what was to come? (Whew, wiping tears again.)
3. Sea grove, FL- Michael would probably say this was his favorite trip. Hannah was seven, and Micah three, old enough to play in the sand and water, and allowing us time to relax and enjoy as well. What he liked most, as well as me, was the company we traveled with: our family of four, Mrs, Jackie, Leigh Ann, and Adrienne, Carolyn and Kimberly, Bruce, Renata, and Jordan, Mama Vickie, and Patricia. We all stayed in a beautiful house, listened to Bruce and Jordan's guitar playing at night, ate at glorious restaurants, but none compared to the home-cooked meal and grilled shrimp we feasted on at our last night there. The food, fellowship, and fun made this trip so relaxing and memorable. Here's a few pics:
2. Myrtle Beach, SC- One of my favorites because it was my 39th birthday. I was holding on for dear life! The girls were finally brave enough to try out boogie-boards, and we discovered the restaurant Crabby Mikes. (Gotta love that name) We met up with Tammy and Jerry's family, which had grown to include Elijah and a now married Michelle and Ben. We were also honored to share a meal with Brenda and Cordell. This was the last time we went to the beach as a family, the girls loved the lazy river at the pool, and drove us completely crazy in the car ride there and back. I put in my Ipod and turned it up as loud as it would go. Hey, I don't want you to think my life is too perfect! But as usual, the good outweighs the bad, and we all came to love Myrtle Beach. These are photos from this trip:
1. Anniversary Getaway- July 2011, Panama City-again. As mentioned earlier, this trip was just Mr. B and me. We felt guilty leaving the kids at home but we knew they were having lots of fun with their grandparents. We anticipated seeing our ocean front view after the long drive.......
This is what we could see from our balcony. Needless to say, we got a different room in a different place where the ocean was actually visible. I laughed and said "Only the Ballards would get this room!" While we enjoyed the solitude and couple time, I missed the girls greatly. Every time a young girl hollered "Mama!" I immediately looked up. As I watched families and kids on the beach I was wishing mine were with me. In the long run, I think it did all of the Ballards some good being away from each other. The girls have played better together, and I have had to fuss at them less. But, all good things must come to an end. (By the end of this post, I have yelled and sent them to their rooms.)
I ordered these ocean excursions chronologically because there is no way I could ever say one was better than the other. All were memorable, special and full of great memories that I wouldn't trade for anything. I'd love to hear about your favorite beach locations and your memories. This blog is a way for me to share my thoughts, memories, and heart with my readers and a way of opening the past for my girls to know me, and how life was from my viewpoint, but I'd also like to hear from you. My posts, like my stories are long-winded at times and for that I apologize, but for those who know me, I could never "cut to the chase" and tell something quickly. I like to give a full account of the events that I share. I hope you enjoy them and laugh, cry, and reminisce with me with each post. This blog is about small town life and what makes it rich and wonderful. Even though this post was about ocean destinations, the best part of any trip is returning home to my simple, but sweet life.
"Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone."