Zac’s question caught me off guard.
Our last vacation was three years ago. Since then, we have done some fun things as a family on day trips, but all the longer getaways that we planned fell through at the last minute.
We said we were finally going to make it to the mountains this fall. However, one of us couldn’t wait that long.
Zac has been putting in a lot of extra hours at the store, and the summer is only going to get busier for him.
He needed a break from staring at the same walls for six days a week.
So earlier this month we set out for Pensacola Beach, Fla. We discussed going to Gulf Shores but ditched that plan once we found out that the Hangout Music Festival would be going on that weekend.
A beach full of drunken naked people and musicians also under the influence of who knows what just didn’t appeal to us.
Zac found a hotel online that was located on the bay and within driving distance of the beach.
For a straight week, I daydreamed of sitting out on the balcony watching the rising and setting of the sun as a stream of sailboats floated by.
Imagine my surprise when our room turned out to be on the ground floor and our only view was of the pool.
My disappointment was eased some when we discovered the private beach that we shared with a handful of other hotel visitors.
The bay was truly beautiful and calm enough that Wyatt could play in it without being knocked down by the waves or pulled out by an undertow.
About an hour before dark on our first night there, we decided to do some exploring to determine where our time would be best spent on our only full day at Pensacola Beach.
We drove past the boardwalk and dozens of the funkiest houses that I had ever seen. At some point, it became obvious that we were far from the typical tourist zone.
Zac whipped into the first parking lot we came across in hopes that it was a public beach.
“Look! Mountains!” Wyatt said, pointing to the sand dunes beyond our windshield.
Zac stepped out and started smiling from ear to ear. “You can taste that salt air, can’t you?”
I took Wyatt’s hand and led him up the wooden walkway that would carry us out to the beach. With each step we took, the far-away crashing of waves turned into a roar.
I had to stop myself from sprinting toward it.
My last beach trip was the summer of 2004. Somehow I had forgotten how magnificent it is to wiggle my toes in the sand, fill my lungs with an ocean breeze and feel a small yet powerful part of an infinite body of water beat against me over and over again.
“Wyatt, it’s the beach!” I yelled excitedly over the sound of the waves.
I had Zac take a picture of me knee-deep in the Gulf of Mexico holding our son.
It was at that moment that I realized parents have as much of a responsibility to introduce their children to the wonders of creation as we do to teach them manners and help with their homework.
We spent as much time playing in the ocean that evening as the light would allow.
We were about to leave when a man standing nearby with his daughter asked Zac if they were seeing the Gulf or the Atlantic Ocean.
He was from the West Coast and said he had only driven down on business to drop off a car.
I thought about our brief conversation with him on our way back to the hotel.
How sad it must be to have to steal a few precious moments with the ocean instead of being able to romp in it for a day and a half as we did.
We all have to leave it sometime, though. That’s probably for the best; we don’t tend to appreciate things that are right outside our front door.
But whether it takes us a year or a decade to get back to the beach again, we know it will be there waiting on us.
That is one of the many marvelous things about it.