Several months ago, our youngest son asked us if we would accompany him and his family on a summer vacation to the Gulf Coast. Although he might not remember this, it reminded me of some of the vacations my wife and I used to take with her mom and dad when we were young parents with small children. I recalled having an extra set of adults, particularly when they were doting grandparents, just seemed to make the trips go more smoothly.
My wife and I are not what you would call “beach people,” and going to the beach would never be first on our list of vacation ideas. In fact, the last time we even went to the beach as a family was when our own kids were fairly young. However, we readily agreed and so he booked us a five-night stay at a 3-bedroom, 4-bath condo overlooking the Gulf in Orange Beach, AL.
On the day of departure, our ride down from Memphis was fairly uneventful although I must say that the stretch of US Highway 45 from Tupelo, MS to Mobile, AL is one of the most boring roads I ever recalled driving on. It seemed that a swath had simply been cut from the heart of a southern pine forest with an occasional endless sea of corn fields thrown in here and there to break up the monotony of trees, trees, and more trees. Thank goodness our 6-year-old granddaughter who rode in the car with us for the entire almost 8-hour trek entertained us by asking some thought-provoking questions along the way such as: “How many times have you been sick in your life?” “How many times have you thrown up in your lifetime?” And no doubt in response to the rarely changing scenery around us: “How many trees are there in the whole world?”
Once we arrived and walked into our condo, we were most pleased with our accommodations and the view we had of what our granddaughter always referred to as “the ocean.”
Before agreeing to come on the trip, my wife and I did not know what to expect our role might be. Whether we would primarily be a baby-sitter for their 10-month-old son or active participants in the fun we did not know. But we quickly fell into a comfortable and enjoyable routine. Each day would start off similarly with a few hands of Uno after breakfast…
…followed by a shave…
…followed by donning of swimsuits and lathering up with sunscreen before heading downstairs for most of the day.
The little fella usually took a short morning nap and an even shorter afternoon nap sometimes being put down by Mommy or my wife. But he must have sensed he was also on vacation as he did not always want to miss out on some of the fun by napping.
Late in the day, some, or all of us would head upstairs to get ready for dinner and a few more hands of Uno.
In addition to having an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a splash pad, and multiple whirlpools on the ground and upper floors, our condo also had a lazy river with a water slide.
It was here that we basically spent the whole first day riding the river…
…while watching our granddaughter slide down the water slide over…
…and over again.
Our second day we split our time between some beach time in the morning…
…followed by more time on the Lazy River where our granddaughter made new friends with both kids and adults alike, floating around with several different families (we often say our granddaughter knows no strangers).
Our third day was a really serious beach day when our son pulled out all the stops and in addition to chairs and umbrella, set up a tent so the baby could stay cool.
The heat unfortunately was more significant than expected and so it wasn’t too long before the little fella needed to seek refuge in the cool of our condo.
Never phased by the sun or the heat, our granddaughter continuously enjoyed searching for seashells and sand dollars. At one point, her daddy caught a softball-sized jellyfish which he deposited into a large water-filled bucket for all to see. A 10-year-old, no doubt future marine biologist jumped into the fray by asking the bystanders 20 little known facts about jellyfish. They even named it “Peanut Butter and Jelly” to which I suggested they could call it “PB&J” for short.
We also got to eat out a couple of nights and had one really nice dinner at a seafood restaurant at nearby Gulf Shores.
Our last night, we fed and put the kids to bed at their usual time and then had food delivered from a local restaurant. It was an absolutely lovely dinner with just the four of us and we all commented on what a wonderful vacation it had been. Since our son has had a young family ever since he got married, it was truly the first time for just the four of us to have a quiet dinner together and enjoy an interesting adult conversation. It was the perfect cap to a really fun week.
On Saturday after we had loaded up the cars, we stepped outside for one last selfie to remember our trip by. It was sad to be leaving but at the same time happy that everything had worked out so well. On the drive home, I was thinking this might be the first of future fun vacation trips with our son and his family. But also wishes that we could do the same with our other two kids and their families one day as well.