Easter then and now
Growing up, my family had a little blue and white camper at Ocean Lakes Campground in Surfside Beach, South Carolina. It was our go-to place for every vacation. My sister and I slept on bunk beds built into the side of a wall. We had no phone or TV, but we ate a lot of watermelon and played board games for hours.
With Easter and spring break on the horizon, I’ve got those beach trips on my mind. Both my parents were teachers, so with all of us following the school system schedule, spring break was full-on family time where we could relax without a care in the world other than avoiding sunburn and mosquito bites.
When school let out on Friday, we loaded up the station wagon — including our two banana-seat bicycles — and headed south. Our first stop when we arrived at Surfside was Kroger. We three girls would hang out in the car while my dad ran inside to get drinks, chips, deli meat, bread, cereal and milk. I’m sure he was also getting some Coors Lite for himself and wine coolers for my mom. We were on vacation, after all.
We would then situate the camper and prep for the week ahead. For seven days straight we relaxed, read books, played in the sand, laughed, grilled out and enjoyed the simple joy and excitement of a middle-class family vacation.
There were occasional mishaps. Like one time I fell asleep and a wad of gum fell out of my mouth and stuck in my hair. We couldn’t get it out so a haircut ensued. Another time I got into a bike accident that badly scraped the entire left side of my body, so sand and salt water were miserable that year. Then another time we forgot to spring our clocks forward so we completely missed a sunrise Easter egg hunt.
But for the most part, those beach trips were wonderful. I feel like as people grow and are more weathered by life, it’s hard to get back to simple pleasures we enjoyed as kids.
Jumping waves, throwing baseball in the backyard, putting on talent shows for one another, reading multiple books in a day, catching fireflies, roasting marshmallows. These are the things that matter.
My family has only been back to Ocean Lakes campground one time in a decade and that was to send my mom’s ashes out to sea in August 2016. I miss my mom terribly. Grief is funny like that. I’ll be OK for a good long while and then wham, my chest feels like it’s going to break open with the pressure of sadness and the yearning to have her here back on earth.
Easter is this Sunday. The boys and I have created our own traditions with our closest friends. Before COVID, we attended Long’s Chapel’s big Easter service at Lake Junaluska. Last year everything was canceled and this year Long’s Chapel is having a smaller outdoor service on the grounds of the church.
After service each year, we spend the rest of the day at someone’s house eating brunch, toasting with mimosas, hosting an Easter egg hunt, enjoying one another and letting the kids run wild and have fun.
Various people come each year. Sometimes grandparents or family members are in town and join us. The group of friends often grows or shrinks, although a core group of us always attends. We’ve been doing this since my boys were toddlers so it’s very important to all of us to keep up the tradition.
My boys are happy and enjoying their youthful Easters as much as I enjoyed mine. As I continue through this holiday week, I’ll be thinking fondly of those seashore memories. And I’m hopeful for some moments where I can eat a little watermelon and catch a few fireflies.