We were tanned and our hair was blonded. We had just finished our last day of our yearly, week long vacation in Wildwood, NJ. I was wearing my favorite bathing suit ever. One with diagonal blue stripes that made me feel strong. My brother was even more tan than I was and his hair was plastered to his head in some weird shape that was made by the waves he would ride from morning to night. My sister had a bucket of shells that she had been working on all week. She was collecting them from the grass where they had been bleached white by the sun.
My dad called and I thought he was going to tell us it was time to start packing. Packing was a real to-do. My mom would let us load as much as we wanted into the car and my dad would always complain about how we did not need all of this stuff. Stuffed animals took up a lot of room for me and now I had even more to bring home. I was obsessed with winning on the boardwalk. Every night I would play the water balloon races and I would win. It was my job to rescue the giant panda or the 6 foot snake from where they hung over the rising clown heads. I had already rehearsed my answer if my dad complained about even more stuffed animals. I was ready to have the animals crowd onto my lap. Which would mean a super sweaty ride home in the car we crowded into with no air conditioning.
My dad and mom were standing there and they were both tanned and relaxed. They were holding hands and they looked happy. I don’t really remember what my dad said but what happened next is one of the clearest memories of my entire childhood. We started running around the little house that we had rented. We were whooping and screaming and hugging each other. We had gone from believing that we would be jamming the car with all of our stuff, to knowing that we would be spending another whole week at the beach. At some point, I ran into the house and gathered up my 6 foot stuffed snake and wore him around my next as we continued to run laps around the house.
That extra week was one of the best weeks of my life. I had run out of allowance but my parents gave me some more. All I could think about was more water balloon races. As we fell asleep that night on the couches that we had pushed together in the living room, I could already envision that purple koala bear sleeping next to me.