We headed to the beach for Memorial Day weekend.
All of us. My sister and brother-in-law, niece and nephew and my parents. We went to a resort at Amelia Island, near the Florida-Georgia border, with half of us staying in the hotel and the rest of us in a beach villa.
My sister arrived a day ahead of me and called to say my brother-in-law was renting a golf cart for us to use to trek around the resort since we weren’t sure how far we were from each other. The kids were extremely excited to use it.
My nephew calls the minute we arrive to see if we're ready for the golf cart to pick us up. As they drive up, he yells, “Auntie, come back here and sit with me!”
Lucky me. I get to sit on the very back seat, facing backwards, as the golf cart zips along the resort paths.
I hold onto my purse for dear life, hoping nothing bounces out of it that I can't retrieve.
Or that I don’t get tossed to the ground like cargo at a sharp turn and end up on "America's Funniest Videos."
At dusk, the kids roast marshmallows over a fire pit on the beach as the sun goes down.
Kids, fire, a stiff breeze, darkness and sharp two-pronged mini-pitchforks. What’s not to love?
In conversation around the fire pit, the kids listen and join in when we’re not noticing.
In mid-story at the end of a sentence, I pause for a breath and Nathan pipes up, “Says Auntie dramatically.”
Devon erupts in giggles, then tries to outdo her brother.
Just when we’re lost in chitchat again and have forgotten about the interruptions, we hear, “Questions Gran forcefully,” or “Laughs Mom cheerfully” or “Replies Grandpa grumpily.”
They think up all the words they know to describe the dialogue and add the hilarity of adverbs to it.
Growing up, I loved listening to my mother, aunts and grandmother tell stories. I loved hearing the familiar tales of their lives through the magic of words.
In the summer, all the girls in the family – seven of us -- would pile into my aunt’s blue Pontiac convertible for a girl's day out without my uncle and dad.
The grown-ups would tie on their headscarves to keep their hairstyles somewhat composed in the blowing breeze. But my sister, cousin and I would sit in the backseat with our hair in ponytails flying straight out behind us as we drove.
We didn’t go on these escapades often, but I thought it was such a treat when we did.
My aunts and mother would talk about their childhoods with my grandmother offering her two cents’ worth. On the drive, they’d talk about high school antics and old boyfriends and trips to Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, where my aunt met my uncle. And they’d laugh the whole way there.
Sometimes I think they forgot we were there in the backseat listening to it all, since they were having such a good time among themselves.
It wasn’t the stories themselves that were so funny.
It was the pieces of their lives that I wanted to hear over and over again.
Because those pieces connected me to them.
Maybe I’m a little like my aunts, mother and grandmother.
Driving in the car, my nephew says to me, “Auntie, tell us one of your stories.” I ask him what he means.
“You know, that story about the lady who burned cheese in the toaster at work,” he says.
I wasn’t sure what was so interesting about that story, but my sister informs me that I get a little melodramatic.
Especially if someone has done something to annoy me. Like leaving burnt cheese for me to clean up when all I wanted to do was toast my English muffin for lunch.
Perhaps my storytelling does get a bit theatrical. “But don’t worry, the kids love it,” she says.
I've always wanted my life to be more story-like. More like the books I read as a child.
But even if it can't be like a good fiction read with loose ends neatly tied up by book's end, I realize that my life is a story.
Told to those around me.
Enlivened with a smattering of drama and sprinkled generously with a whole lot of adverbs.
And I can help my niece and nephew turn the pages of the familiar chapters of our family's story as they scribble their own pages that are yet to be written.
The stories will continue. Welcome summer. We’re ready for you.