Birthdays, bourbon, and beach blankets - bingo!

Jun. 29, 2013 @ 09:37 AM

So today is the day we go to the beach! Big deal, you say. So what, you ask. Everybody goes to the beach around here, snore.

Well, the difference here is that, for my mother’s 85th birthday, she and Dad have rented a house on the Outer Banks which will hold the entire family. Not that the entire family can come: Kate’s working in Africa, and Jack and Aaron are working in San Francisco. That leaves only 30 of us! 
No, I’m not kidding. Our immediate family is 33 strong ... or weak, depending on your outlook ... and we range from Grandpa James, who is 86, down to baby James, who was born in March. And, we are all going to the beach together -- for a week. It’s like when the British were coming: Seagulls are taking cover, stores are stocking up, restaurants are hiring extra help, and other vacationers are making hasty plans to change plans ... even the sharks are fleeing. 
Most are coming from Ohio: Mom and Dad will be flying down with John, Liz, Luke and Will; Karen, Susan, Gregg, Joey, Michael, Maggie, Caroline, Ian and James will be driving. Jimmy, Alisa and Mac will be flying up from Florida.  Katherine and Kristen (our twinnies!) are flying in from Denver. Louise, Chuck, Charlie, Georgie, Gracie, Robby, Lindsey, Becky, Ryan and I will be driving over from Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Wilmington. Is that 30?
Since there are five “children” in my generation, we’re dividing the five weekday dinners among our families, and I chose tomorrow. Why? Because, a) I’ll get it over with; and b) not everyone will be there yet. I may only have to cook for 25 – woo-hoo!
So, I’m doing my famous fresh peel’n’eat shrimp, baked potatoes and Caesar salad.  Cheap-ish, easy and makes a good impression. I assigned dessert to my daughter, who has angst-ed for three months over whether to do her spectacular caramel/bourbon cupcakes or maybe some apple pies. Please, is that even a choice? FYI: In a house with 30 family members, I would imagine bourbon will be somewhere in every bedroom.
I gave appetizers to my son, Rob, which could be risky. Robby can do wonders with food when he’s in the mood, and he makes a fresh pina colada that will curl your toes.  But, whatever he does, the kitchen eventually resembles the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane, and he’s not one for cleaning up, especially after several of those pina coladas. I told him the kitchen will be crowded, so who knows what we’ll get -- maybe fresh, homemade crab cakes; maybe a bag of Doritos and a can of peaches.
The house we’re renting has just been completed. In fact, we’ll be the first ones in it, which is somewhat worrisome, if you think about it. OK, sure, we only have five actual children in the group, and they’ll mostly be on the beach, assuming it doesn’t rain, please God, and they’ll be closely supervised by anxious parents/lifeguards, so how much harm could they do, really? I’m thinking not too much. 
On the other hand, what if the workmen got to hurrying this past week and did a rush job on stuff, and say I’m showering and the shower door gets stuck and I can’t get out? Stuff like that happens in new rush-job houses all the time, you know. And, there is NO ONE on this earth that I would allow to come in and break me out of the shower. I’d rather just live in there.
Or, say the steps aren’t nailed down really well, and someone, probably me, starts down from the third to the first floor, and the step wiggles and I fall two stories and break everything I own and have to spend the week in a body cast. Don’t laugh. I am totally not kidding. I’ve done crutches on the sand, my friend. These are the things that happen in my life -- why do you think I write humor? If I don’t put my life on paper, someone else will.
On top of that, the “kids” (who are our children and all grown and not in any way “kids” any more) want to rent jet skis and go hang-gliding, which opens a whole other door to possible catastrophe, and could mean that I spend the entire trip schlepping from the local hospital to the local church, because let me just say, I am not the only one in my family who exhibits an astonishing klutziness. No, I come from a long line of stumblebums, and that line continues, most likely even in little James, who will no doubt spit a pacifier at a passing seagull and be ferociously pecked.
If I live, I’ll let you know how it went!  Say a prayer.

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at, or visit her website,