Just like that, it's time to load the car back up. Time to spend another 27 hours driving, only this time we're heading home.
Already I'm hoping the puppy's panic farts are a little less severe, and that the pitstops are a little more successful than our visit to White Castle was on the way here.
But I'm also starting to dread the inevitable goodbye that we'll have to say to this charming coastal city, particularly this beautiful beachside neighborhood we've come to know so well.
The house we've been blessed to stay in is a beautiful, grey-paneled two-story summer home.
Downstairs Mikael and I have had a lovely room with a cozy double bed. It's right by the bathroom with the window that looks out on water/highway. The small river sparkles in the breaking sunlight. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure at least a few commuters saw my bare bottom in the evenings before I realized the curtain was up. Good times. It's not a vacation unless someone makes a... fool of herself.
I'm glad I could get the party started so to speak.
There are also two bookcases crowded with loved paperbacks, puzzles, games, and pretty much every Fisher Price toy I remember having as a child (in the 80's; the classic zoo, barn and fold-up house...). There's also a small TV we've used for movie nights, and a coffee table currently housing a mostly finished puzzle of a cat.
It's mostly finished 'cause the real cat started getting jealous of the puzzle cat (which in her defense, did bear a striking resemblance). Also, the dog may or may not have eaten, then regurgitated several pieces.
The investigation is ongoing, but let's just say some of puzzle cat's fur is not looking so good. (The cookies on the other hand... yum!)
Upstairs there's a large kitchen, complete with a six-stooled bar that curves around the stovetop. It's a perfect spot for watching the chef, or the poor sap taking a turn doing dishes... or for hosting an impromptu family meeting while preparing leftovers (one of my favorite meals of the trip - what a weirdo I am).
I would like to confide in you how the important family meeting quickly diverged to a discussion of what else - poop! - but I don't know if I'm privy to share that kind of stuff with the entire internet. I think we may still be trying to resemble a classy, reserved family here.
I'll check my confidentiality agreement and get back to you on this.
I can share that the kitchen (which we promptly stocked with coffee, bacon, local eggnog, and homemade Oreo Truffles, so basically, all the necessities) unfolds onto an actual dining room, with six stately chairs and a small folding chair thrown in.
I can't begin to explain to you why little details like this seem so important to me, but they do. Perhaps if I hadn't lost every game I played in it (Yahtzee, Skipbo, Pass the Pigs, Golf) or if I'd had the discipline to wake up early enough to see the sun rise over the water it wouldn't be a small blue metal chair I'd be engraining in my memory right now.
Maybe then it'd be my awesome victories, or a breathtaking landscape of a city I may never see again that I'd be imprinting.
But instead, I will remember this little chair. And how cute the mini Farkle looks on this dining room table. How many boxes of Kleenex we've left all over the place here (two of our team have been sick most of the trip - I'm thankful they're both better troopers than I would have been), and how much I love the view here.
Just knowing the beach is so close warms my heart. (A good thing, as it turns out, on a Winter vacation in the North East.)
I'll also remember laughing so hard at family stories I thought I might pee my pants (which is definitely something everyone would have remembered).
And how excited my Mom got when she finally Yahtzee-d. (She looked and sounded like a stressed out cat, but I know her well enough to know that was pure excitement she was expressing.)
I'll remember Teddy falling asleep under my feet as I read most mornings, and Ellie strolling the table, sticking her little kitty face in every cup she could get to (including ones she can't really fit in; those are my favorite).
I'll remember watching the two of them play with the chess pieces, and Mom putting on a John Tesh CD (there's a lot of "classical music" upstairs) before Dad graciously changed it to something less sucky.
Which reminds me, we spent New Year's Eve - part of it - around this very dining table that I'm talking about incessantly.
We blew out candles on a Funfetti cake the cat keeps trying to eat. We laughed, and stayed warm, while making plans to go see an Anchor Drop (Delaware's version of what Time Square does).
And we began what has been an absolutely wonderful stay here. A dream vacation. A much-needed, very-grateful-for-it time of rest, rejuvenation.
I love that we got to visit New York. And that we explored the downtowns near this house. We saw family from out-of-state, and had opportunities to eat great food, photograph lovely places... everyone but Mikael and I squeezed in a day trip to D.C.
We dog sat, and started books, and drank coffee, and talked, and pumped him full of over-the-counter cold medicines. And did laundry.
And it was heavenly. To be in a quiet house just resting (and eating leftover cupcakes) with my husband, what a novelty! I loved it.
And I think that is what will stand out most in my mind, about this trip, this getaway, to a town we'd never heard of, in a state we'd never been to...
How much fun it was just to be in this house with my family. All of it. (*Save my hardworking brother. And G'ma. Who would have been super fun, but would not agree to ride in the cartop carrier - I kid. I kid.)
Today is actually Mikael and my first-year anniversary. (Thanks Allison for the early morning reminder/congrats!)
365 days ago today I was donning a dress I haven't worn since, trying unsuccesfully not to panic that our bouquets were too long. Eating a Sonic corndog while having my nails painted. And counting down the hours 'til I would say "I do" to the man I picked to spend my life with, the man who picked me to form a family with.
We had no idea then what we were signing up for - lots of change, lots of trials, unbelievable joys, almost always at super simple things, learning, growing, annoying one another, adoring one another, being challenged, being blessed, learning, again... - but I'm glad we meant what we said.
I'm so thankful that we've stuck it out, for better or worse, in sickness and health, in beachside two-story homes and in sleeping in cramped cars that reak of panic farts.
I'm so thankful for him, and the heart that he has.
And while some people must shutter at the idea we're celebrating this anniversary with my entire family* - dog and cat included - I'm really thankful we were able to come along on this journey, sort of cementing, if you will, the fact that we are forging our own path, but with the support of both our circles, the ones that raised us and love us still.
I've had a lot of time over the past year to get to know Mikael's family, to spend time with them and to love them, both for everything they mean to him, and for how quickly they adopted me into their clan.
This week I'm so thankful that Mikael has had the chance to do the same. To see where I come from, where I get my cheesy sense of humor and my ability to shriek at the slightest scare, my love of dice games and travel and hotdogs and...
He's had a chance to appreciate (hopefully ;) my family's unique brand of weirdness, and for both of us to see that we're not alone in this, this journey we started one year ago, today.
I have said this is a dream vacation, but the truth is there's no way. I could never have dreamed up something so lovely as this - time spent with the people I not only love, but genuinely like, whose company I enjoy.
Thank you family, for raising me to appreciate ridiculous humor, painfully long roadtrips and to recognize good people when I see them.
And thank you Mikael, for putting up with me at my worst, for
challenging me to be my best, and for laughing just the right amount
when I do all kinds of stupid/silly things in between.
It's been an adventure thus far, and I wouldn't have it any other way.