Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved the beach. In fact, I crave the beach. It’s my church. I must have a mermaid or a pirate soul, despite the fact that I was raised amongst those that seek higher ground. Yes, I was born from a different mold…my parents were people that enjoyed vacationing in the mountains, sight-seeing, park hopping (not in the Disney sense, but the National Park sense) and staying busy. People that cannot just relax and be…people that are always on the move. We were lucky though. For as many years as I can remember, we always had a family vacation. Each year we’d hop in the car or travel on an airplane to near or distant places, always in North America and then travel more. There was no one “final” destination…there were many destinations…all on the same trip! We’d fly to Colorado and travel 1,500 miles once we landed and see the entire western half of the United States. All this time, I told my friends we were going to Colorado…oh no, we were going to Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming…and seeing it all in 14 days! We traveled so much on “free mileage” from the rental car agencies, you can imagine the shock when my Father would return the car and ask for the reimbursement for an oil change . My Dad would always rent a Lincoln Towncar (we had a 1978 Chevrolet Caprice Estate Wagon at home, so the Towncar was indeed a little bit of luxury). It felt like traveling all around on your couch in luxurious rental car style. We never worried about the roughness of construction zones or the elusive “falling rock”. We had shock absorbers and leather seats. We never would have felt a thing! On these vacations, the notion of sleeping in, well, it did not exist. We’d awake at some God forsaken hour, like 6 am, so we could be the first ones to wait in a line for some attraction or park that wasn’t going to open until 9 am. I also remember returning home with more money than I had when I left, because my sister and I would get a dollar for every wild animal we saw. When you are on vacation in Yellowstone and see 100 deer a day, it starts to add up. As an adult, I realize it was my Dad’s way of shutting us up and keeping us off our Sony Walkmans. One of my favorite memories from one of these anti-beach vacations was having an extra day before we flew home. I remember my mother and father discussing, “oh it’s only an 8 hour drive to Salt Lake City, let’s do that.” Are you kidding me? And while we endure this you are going to fuss that I am reading a book and not paying attention to the scenery (i.e, road construction). Needless to say, my father would have our vacations all planned out like National Lampoon’s Clark W. Griswold. But despite my affectionate sarcasm, I appreciated those vacations. I really did. I experienced things and visited places in North America that many of my extended family or friends have not experienced. But you know what? All I ever really wanted was the beach…always the beach. When I was 15, I ordered the catalog of rental properties for the Outer Banks of NC, and said to my Father, “let’s go to the beach this year, ” he seemed to categorize this desire as ungratefulness. Why would I want to make the 4 hour drive to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, stay in a stranger’s house, when we could fly to Yellowstone. Anyone can go to the beach anytime….well, being anyone, anytime, sounded like just what this old mermaid pirate soul needed. I wanted to drive to a beach house and park myself for a week. If I could be one of those really lucky people and go all summer, that would have been heaven. In the meantime, I’d take my week.
Despite growing up and living my entire life somewhere along the East Coast, I’ve probably only experienced a handful of true beach house vacations. You know the ones…you splurge on the house….and you pretend for those 7 days that this house is really yours. I love those trips. The nervous anticipation of, “please don’t let this place be a dump” or finding yourself adopting your parents exclamation of “there is nothing wrong with this” when it is a dump and there is, in fact, everything wrong with this! Or the sigh of relief when your realize the pictures from the rental agency were current and up to date! Even if the house was something to be desired and not Buckingham Palace, my favorite part of the initial entry to each house was seeking out the library of left behind beach books. Yes! Those old tattered books that had been read and loved by many or even just a few. I loved the smell of the water-stained, yellow-paged, broken backed, tattered book that endured salt and sand. I loved wondering who it belonged to and how it was left behind. I loved ditching my own books that I lugged in my suitcase, to discover new authors or titles within the beach house. I loved leaving a book behind…a sign of gratitude..a tribute to my own existence. This ritual was exciting to me. These books fed my soul. These books would take my imagination on those additional 1,500 miles while I sat on the sand on my beach.
As a lover of books and beach houses, the thought of beach house reads still excites me, even without the week-long relaxing vacation to the beach. Perhaps I need an escape, even if it’s in my imagination. You see, I am still old school. I love books. The physical book. I love their smell. I love the cover pictures, I love buying books based on the cover or title alone, just to surprise myself later on what the book is truly about. I love the feeling of eagerness as I keep the pages turning and the feeling of completeness coupled with a tinge of sadness when I have closed the book for the last time. This year, I was especially thrilled to read the beach book lists on various websites and magazines, so I decided to challenge myself and create my own adventure (and yes, I do remember those books too). My adventure is to read as many beach book summer reads as I possibly can between early June and Labor Day. The books may not always be recent releases. Oh no! I am going to mix it up. After all who has money for hardback books and time to wait for the local library to have a copy of an unreserved new release? My beach reads will include any book I can get my hands on either from my existing collection of unread books or those that appear on a current beach book list. The only criteria that I will give myself is that it has to seemingly be a beach read, either based on the cover, the setting or the storyline. Yes! There has to be something coastal about it! And yes…at the end of the each book, I’ll post my thoughts about the book as a resource for those that will want to indulge their own imaginations and escape inside the beach house with me. I’d love some suggestions for my journey!