Updated on Wednesday*:
Growing up, I never realized just how unusual our family
vacations were. It wasn’t until many years later while sharing with
friends about vacations from our childhoods that I came to realize my
stories were not your run of the mill ones.
When we went on family vacations, we took the whole
neighborhood. I grew up in a little place called Key Ridge. Parents here
knew it takes a village to raise a child long before Hilary Clinton did.
For this reason, if you look at vacation pictures from my childhood, you
will see 21 people in most of them. There were the Walburns, plus
Grandma Haught, the Taylors, the Millers, and the Rollings. For a number
of years, we traveled to Nags Head, N.C. None of us had a great deal of
money, but together we could afford to rent a relatively nice beach
house. One summer, we rented a lovely three-story home just a stone’s
throw from the ocean. It was a dream house for a bunch of country kids
Each morning, we would collect our towels, umbrellas,
sun-screen, books, buckets and shovels, and head for the sandy shores. I
am sure those there ahead of us wondered how a quiet beach could become
so crowded in such a short time. The hours raced by as we built
sandcastles, collected seashells, rode the waves, and soaked up some
summer sun. One particular day, we had some extra excitement. A large
crab had been spotted by Ben Taylor, and he had challenged us kids to
capture it for dinner. As an adult, I now wonder if this was just a plot
to keep 12 kids occupied, but at the time it was a challenge we were
more than ready to take upon ourselves.
Armed with every bucket, pot, pan, and colander we could
find in the house, and to the delight of a crowd that gathered on the
shore, we raced up and down the beach chasing that crustacean. Sadly,
the crab was too fast for us, and we returned to our beach house tired,
sandy, and hungry. We dumped our flip flops, towels, and other
paraphernalia on the bottom deck and raced each other to be the first in
the showers. Unbeknownst to us, a severe storm was brewing that would
stir up some adventure for one of us.
Big Ben, as we affectionately call the head of the
Taylor family, is known to be a night owl. That night, he was still up
and about when the thunder began to rumble and the lightning to flash.
Ben immediately thought of the beach gear outside. He hurried downstairs
and out the door to collect everything before it blew off the deck. A
huge gust of wind soon left our Good Samaritan standing outside a locked
door in a raging Nor’easter.
Not wanting to awaken the whole household, Ben tried
throwing our flip flops at his bedroom window hoping to wake up his wife
Jenn. This wasn’t successful, so Ben began to look for other ways to get
in out of the storm. Unfortunately, the local police began their patrol
of our neighborhood just as Ben was working his way around our beach
house. Our poor hero is not only trapped outside in the rain in his
boxers, but he is dodging the police spotlight as it is shone on all the
houses on their watch.
Knowing he had about a half hour until the police made
their next loop, Ben decided to conquer his fear of heights and climb
from the bottom deck to the top deck where the sliding glass door would
hopefully be unlocked. Lady Luck finally smiled on Big Ben, and he made
it safely to the top deck without being struck by lightning or spotted
by the police. His last obstacle was to enter the house without scaring
to death all of us that were sleeping inside that sliding glass door.
Thankfully, the sounds of the storm covered Ben’s entrance, and we all
slept on peacefully.
The next morning, Ben’s escapade was shared at breakfast
and continues to be shared whenever we all gather together and start
sharing stories from our childhoods and summer times.
is the sister of Chronicle reporter Maricia Mlynek.)
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