Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One Particular Harbor

As we have for over two decades, beneath a cozy canopy of live oak trees dripping is spanish moss, we headed to Hilton Head Island for our family vacation last week. Nestled between white sandy beaches and beautiful green landscapes; among award winning gold courses, and miles of bike trails- it has been a favorite spot of my family's to the point of memorization of sights and smells. A perfect spot for Emilie's first vacation. And 874 pictures.

This year we borrowed Jason's Aunt and Uncle's van and drove, which proved really convenient since two little girls (okay and their mom, too) don't travel lightly. The girl did really well in the car until, with three of the 16 hours left in the drive there, Marin threw up everywhere. Even after we pulled over, cleaned up it, changed outfits, and febreezed the heck out of everything, it was a smelly last three hours. One of the reasons I don't travel lightly, is because I always pack medical supplies for the kids, and as it turns out, it's good that I do. Quick roadside check of her temperature confirmed that Marin had 102 degree fever. Luckily, after a dose of children's motrin she quickly rebounded and hit the ground running and jumping (literally) as soon as we arrived. Nothing says vacation like six loads of pukey laundry right out of the gate.

But nothing slows us down! We packed in the activities as always- biking, beaching, sand castle building, swimming, wave stomping (Marin's favorite), noodle fishing (pretend fishing with the swim noodle), kayaking, golfing, shopping, eating and singing. Every year we make the best memories and revisit old ones all the same.

I started every day in my favorite way, with my traditional walks with my dad. They have become some of my favorite moments of the whole year. Spending time with Jason and the girls day after day was such a treat! Marin loved that her Daddy was there every morning when she woke up yelling in her signature way, "A shunshine's out! It's up time!" We played cards most nights, and my mom and I always were the last to go to bed, when we could no longer keep our eyes open.

Marin and Emilie both loved the ocean. Emilie even put her feet in the sand and I held her as the water lapped up onto her little toes, and she smiled brightly. Marin ran circles around her, of course, jumping in the waves, completely submerging herself in the salt water, and then coming up for more. She and Jason built sand castles, that she said included elephants, horses, and an ice cream store. Seconds after Jason carefully dug a moat or built a wall, Marin would come and smash it all down laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world. She loved playing in the sand, and getting it all over herself. I think we brought half the beach home with us, despite our efforts to clean everything ahead of time.

Then our little mermaids would hit the pool. Marin jumped way off the side all by herself over and over and over again. She swam to us all by herself using her arms and legs and she'd dunk herself underwater warning, "Watch me! I can go under all by myself!" I gave her strict rules on how to stay safe, and often heard her telling Grandma and Grandpa later, "'Memeber? Mommy says no jumping off the ladder." Or, "Careful on the stairs, okay?" Emilie floated in her little baby float happy as a clam to dangle her little legs below the water. She got splashed more than a few times by Marin, and just took it all in stride. She also spent a lot of time napping in her stroller on the pool deck.

Leading up to the trip, Marin kept talking about seeing alligators which we do daily, all over the island. On our first bike trip out to look for alligators with our "knockers" (Marin for binoculars), Marin got the thrill of her life. We saw a huge, usually still, alligator on the side of the water. Then it opened its mouth, climbed in the water and started swimming in our direction. We shuffled Marin back in her bike carrier against her wishes in case we needed to make a quick get away. We also saw tons of dolphin. On the beach at sunrise I saw pods of them together (most likely momma and her babies) and even saw them jumping out of the water like they do at the zoo! On our kayak trip, my dad, Jason and I saw them swimming right next to us. Marin fell in love with horses after a trip to the island stables, when a pony walked right up to her, and as she says, "wanted to be my friend!" She didn't leave the island without a horse purse, two new horse figurines, and a lecture from daddy about it being an expensive hobby.

One day we took a boat cruise over to a small, scarcely populated, desolate island called Dafuske Island, which is only accessible by boat. We rented a six person golf cart and spent the afternoon visiting what has been described as living history, and the Gullah people. It was a true low country experience, traveling between marshland, where, when Jason told Marin that's where marshmellows came from she responded, "No they don't! Marshmellows come from Grandpa's house!"

Marin loved watching and singing along to Gregg Russell, our favorite performer under the 200 year old live oak in Harbour Town. This summer he celebrated his 35th year of entertaining children and their parents alike. It was such a joy to watch Marin sing along to songs just as I did as a little girl under that same tree. Later she would say, "Gregg Russell sings that song! Wanna sing with me?!" and go on to sing about the green alligators and long neck geese.

It was a wonderful week spent together, enjoying one anothers company, watching the girls laugh and play. If I try really hard, I can still smell the familiar sea air, and see the brilliant blue skies laced with palm trees and beautiful tall pines. I love the memories we have made in this magical place, and I love that my girls are making their own memories there now too... to last a lifetime. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for a wonderful trip once again!