To the Beach We Go


Leilani Gibbons, Editor- in- chief

It has been years since the nights of lantern light and chilly sand molding under my feet. In these days, the summer nights held cooling sunsets and warm breezes that ran over your shoulders like a thin blanket, and the water rushed up to meet your toes as the colorful sky laid its head down and sank into the vast ocean. These were the days that I lived for.


Throughout my childhood, up until college years, my family and I would take a trip to Flora Beach, Virginia, a little lost town on the coast of the state. It was a desolate place filled to the brim with quiet but loving people who spoke words of wisdom and whispered scripture. Looking back, it seems more like a dreamy ghost town than a real place, so much lost time was found in the shells in my hair and with every pound of sand that ended up returning home in the suitcase.


Growing up I lived in Stanton, Louisiana, a busy local town surrounded by art and music. My mother, father, sister and I lived in a bungalow-like one story home in a rural location- nothing more and nothing less than we needed– it was home. My sister and I often played in our small yard when we were young, I have fond memories of running through sprinklers in failed attempts to wade off the growing heat that pestered our skin. We had water balloon fights and even crafted makeshift barriers to block the opposing blows. These were just the antics that preceded the summer; there were adventures to come as the months ran by.


By July, it was almost too hot to function. The sticky air made it too tiring to run and the grass was gasping for water at any attempt to cross it. This mix of sweltering humidity and boiling pavement were the first signs of the trip. It always occurred when the fun began to diminish and the sun was beating down excessively. And the trip always began with a phone call.


The phone rang in an almost mocking tone as my sister and I sat with our eyes glued on our father. He was holding the home phone in his right hand as his left arm wrapped around his waist and his hand rested on his hip. He smiled a sly smile at us, knowing the anticipation that rested behind our anxious eyes, and turned to face away from us. We shifted right back into his line of sight so he could know just how much we wanted this annual vacation to begin immediately.


We had traveled to Flora Beach every summer since before either of us were born, and this particular year we were 8 and 11 years old, I being the eldest. It was a tradition for my father and his brother to meet at this beach every year since they had both graduated college and moved to different states, and once both siblings were married, had children, and settled down, they continued the celebratory beach vacation.


My father called my Massachusen uncle in order to initiate the trip and finalize the plans that were made. My mother sat in the kitchen and chuckled as she watched my sister and I barrage our father with pleading looks and questions.


“Can we leave now?” “When are we going?” “Is the car ready?” “Should we start packing?”


Despite his fabricated annoyance he loved the excitement that filled our lungs as we ran out of breath inquiring every detail of our adventure.


The best part of the trip was always the company. Along with my immediate family, we would always meet my uncle, my aunt, and my two cousins: Jade and Rustin, at our annual Virginia home. Every year my family would reside in the same beach house on Cauli Circle; it was a beautiful two story, lifted home resting on the coast of an unpopular but amazing beach. The house was blue and aged, with chips in the paint and creaks in every step. But it was home nonetheless. The back wall of the main floor was nothing but large, studio windows that revealed the oceanview and beachfront. These windows are where I saw the sky in its purest form; from sunrises, sunsets, full moons, and shooting stars, my days of freedom and unadulterated joy could be seen through these panels of glass.


The trip never failed to be planned to the T weeks before it actually took place, my mother and father simply enjoyed the illusion of spontaneity as we packed our bags the night before and piled into our rickety van at the break of dawn. On those nights my sister and I lost hours of sleep as the giddy adrenaline kept our eyes from closing and our minds from quieting, we giggled as we shared our “What if’s” from across the dark, shared room.


We finally drifted to sleep a few hours before our departure, and were shortly rustled back awake unpleasantly as our parents dragged our unwilling and tired bodies to the vehicle. And thus began the journey to our summer abode.


The first 5 hours of the drive were spent asleep in the rear bench of the van. The scent of morning coffee and hazelnut creamer drifted into the back seat and into our dreams as my parents discussed minor details and essentials of the vacation. The expedition from Louisiana to Virginia was a painful 16 hour drive that we conquered in one whole day- not forgetting lunch and dinner stops. We began at 6 in the morning in order to beat the sun and the droning traffic,and we reached our destination at about 1 in the morning, beat and ready to relax in a real bed. As we drove through plains, fields, bustling cities, and little towns, my family and I occupied ourselves with stories and i-spy games in order to pass the time.


The sun rose high in the sky as hours ticked by like eternities. The countdown was slowly decreasing as the anticipation grew with every mile that passed. And after hours of being trapped in a confining van with the people closest to me, the sun began to set and welcome the moon into the sky, marking the final stretch toward the height of my year. My summer was just beginning.