As I sat there on Fort Fisher Boulevard two Saturday evenings ago and watched the heat rising from the pavement in steamy waves, I sighed again and turned my steering wheel slightly in order to see around the car in front of me. All I could make out was an endless line of cars creeping slowly along the two-lane highway. To my right and left stood beach houses, some refurbished and painted bright candy colors, some graying and crumbling with age, up on stilts to catch the second-row breezes. I watched the homeowners escaping their hot kitchens through slapping screen doors and gathering on front porches for cocktails and people watching. I envied them. They were home. I was two hours away from home, stuck on a holiday highway for God knows how long. I was hot and tired and my nose was sunburned.
Yet, I was happy. I had just spent the entire day at the beach with my little girl who was now contentedly singing and talking to herself in her carseat. I glanced in the rearview mirror and smiled. Her skin was brown as a pancake and her pigtailed hair shone in the setting sun.
I had created this day for her. My original plan was to drive to Wrightsville Beach to visit her great-grandparents, grandparents and one of her aunties who were staying the entire July 4th weekend. Evie and I were only going to stay for a few hours, have lunch and then drive back while she napped. As we made our way down there, I thought to myself, “Self, why don’t you stay the whole day? Why don’t you take Evie on a little adventure into Carolina Beach, have dinner and walk out onto the Kure Beach pier?” It sounded like an okay idea. But what about Evie’s nap? And did I remember how to get to Carolina Beach from Wrightsville? Should I attempt to do this by myself? What if we ran out of gas and were captured by pirates?
As I weighed the pros and cons, I realized something about myself: I make the fun. If I wanted to take my little girl to one of my favorite places in the world, eat deep-fried seafood and watch old men catch fish, I had only to step on the gas pedal. This was a wonderful realization.
I wonder what Evie will remember from that day we spent together. Will it be the unbelievably gorgeous weather we had? The fresh, light air? The sun glistening off the sapphire ocean like diamonds? How crowded Kure Beach was with all kinds of different people? Her first taste of fried shrimp? The pelicans and seagulls, hoping for a bite, flapping around the grizzled old fisherman on the pier? Driving back in the dark with her mommy listening to talk radio turned down low? Or will she just remember it as a day she had fun with her mommy?
I’ll remember it as…well, I’ll just remember it.