Okay, I’ll admit that I was wrong. Going to the beach for Thanksgiving was really pretty fun.
Perhaps I wouldn’t be making this admission if the weather had not been so nice. Highs were in the mid seventies with sunny skies every day. You can’t beat that.
Lucky or not, being at Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, for Thanksgiving was quite pleasant. I will do it again.
For Northsiders, Santa Rosa Beach is like a second home. Thousands of Northsiders make multiple trips throughout the year to places like Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Grayton Beach, Destin and the like.
It’s no wonder. Those Florida panhandle beaches are some of the best in the world. The sand is white, the beaches broad, the dunes beautiful and the water clear. The surf is usually calm enough for children, but just rough enough for some fun. There are no rocks to cut yourself on. And the jellyfish and seaweed are only occasional nuisances. Sharks are rare.
Over the years, I have paid my dues at Seaside and Rosemary Beach when the children were young. Those developments are expensive but are designed so young children can run and bike freely without worry. You have to pay extra for that.
Now that the children are grown, we can save money and get closer to the beach by renting condos further from the Seaside and Rosemary hubs. We rented a ground floor condo right on the beach. It was called the Legacy.
A large biking and walking sidewalk made it an easy walk to Seaside, but there were plenty of good restaurants just across the street and down the way.
Fact of the matter, we mainly ate in because of Covid. We had three older members in our group of nine and we were trying to be as safe as possible.
We planned this trip back when the Covid stats were bottoming out. Much to our disappointment (and everyone else’s), the Covid numbers started to increase rapidly just when we all thought the storm was subsiding. Life has many twists and turns.
Our condo was four stories tall with four units on each floor for a total of 16 units. It was well built and quiet. It was tucked behind the dunes with a boardwalk and stairs leading down to the beach. It just took a minute or two to be on the beach.
I admire how, as a society we, have developed greater respect for nature, even when it comes to beachfront property. As a kid, beach structures would often not respect the ecological importance of sand dunes, sitting right on top or even wiping away the dune buffer. Now beachfront property is behind the dunes with minimally disruptive beach access. That’s progress.
It was pleasant just sitting on the beach without getting hot. There is something primordially soothing to watching the sunlight reflect off the waves and listening to the rhythmic pounding of the surf. There are theories that early humans evolved around seashores and, as a result, we have an innate longing for the beach.
It was remarkably crowded despite the Covid situation. Pedestrians and bikers were everywhere. The beach was packed, but not annoyingly so. I have always found people watching to be part of the fun of sitting on the beach.
When the sun was not blocked by clouds, it actually got warm enough for me to swim. I admit getting in was brisk, but once fully submerged I was just fine and stayed in for quite some time.
My first job out of college was in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and I lived on the beach for a while. I became a pretty accomplished body surfer that year and that’s my main attraction when I get in the water.
My love for body surfing was tempered a few years back when a good friend broke his neck body surfing. He’s fine now but was lucky to have fully recovered.
The wind was mild and body surfing was fairly futile, but it gave me something to focus on while in the water.
Apparently my willingness to swim inspired some other middle aged men and four of them soon followed me into the water.
My son, Lawrence, and his cousin, Curt Knight, were not the least bit bothered by the cooler water temperatures and swam and frolicked for hours. They played frisbee and some other simple beach racquet game until Lawrence stepped on one of the racquets and broke it.
It made me laugh watching the young men play. It’s true, sand castles and toy buckets are a thing of the past, but they still frolicked and played with energy and enthusiasm. Ah, youth.
My father-in-law, Bob Knight, was the most impressive. Being in his eighties didn’t stop him from swimming laps just beyond the breakers. I was in awe. Those boys have got some good genes.
Wife Ginny worked furiously the week before to have a full Thanksgiving meal prepared and it was, of course, perfectly delicious.
We were shooting for 2 p.m. but none of us were surprised when we sat down to the feast a 4 p.m. We all went around the table and spoke of what we were thankful for. Great moments with the people I love. So much to be thankful for.
I cracked my usual Thanksgiving joke: “Ginny this is awesome. The turkey goes so well with the dressing and gravy. And who would have thought to add cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. Great combo of dishes. So creative. Well done!!”
Lawrence and I played some tennis and he beat me twice in a row. After his fourth straight ace, I yelled across the net, “So that’s what I get for the thousands of dollars in tennis lessons I paid for you.” The mom on the court next to me yelled out, “Great line, I’m going to remember that one.”
I managed to sneak away and play nine holes of golf with John Martin, my cousin who lives here and brokers beach real estate. He tells me a small beach lot at Alys Beach, the latest hot development, will cost you $7 million. Wow! Where does such money come from?
As a twosome at Santa Rosa Beach Golf Club, we were paired with two strangers, Jim and Henry Brown, a father and son combo. Turns out they were no strangers. Before we hit our drives on number one, we realized we knew about a dozen people in common and had met on several occasions. Same with his son Henry, who went to school with Lawrence. Mississippi is not a state. It’s a club.
We tried back bay fishing for the first time in the area. Ended up catching tiny baby reds on the intercoastal waterway. The frustrated guide finally broke down and told us, “The snappers are really hitting now. You should have booked offshore.” Won’t make that mistake again.
We did dine out one night at an Italian restaurant directly across from the condo. Any Covid fears were immediately allayed as we were the only ones in the main dining area.
Lawrence ordered the lobster ravioli. As I was paying the check he said, “My tongue is tingling.” Uh-oh. Lawrence has a severe allergy to nuts. Within minutes he was throwing up and breaking out in hives. We were headed to the Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital on U. S. 98.
I knew the route. Fifteen years earlier, Ginny went over the handlebars of her bike and acquired a huge goose egg on her forehead.
There were no Covid crowds at this hospital. Lawrence was treated promptly with a Benadryl and steroid drip. We were in and out in two hours. I did all the “paperwork” on my smartphone while I waited. It was an impressive example of the quality of healthcare in our country.
Turns out the sauce for the lobster ravioli had a big portion of pesto, which is made from pine nuts. Lesson learned.
We paid for the excellent weather on the drive back. It rained the entire way, adding two hours to the drive with wrecks and slower speeds. Seven and a half hours. The traffic jam at the new Buc-ee’s mega stop was self inflicted. Won’t make that mistake again.
Beach trips have changed for the Emmerichs. The kids are grown. No more exhaustion chasing after and entertaining kids with their boundless energy. Those days are gone forever.
There is some relief in that. The beach is now calm and relaxing. Much to my surprise, there was almost no family drama, remarkable given the high energy and opinionated nature of the Emmerich and Knight clans. I actually enjoyed the family vacation.
But this serenity was slightly spoiled by a wistful sense that some very happy, hectic times had passed us by.