At the beach with Ralph Lauren

It seems that every time I spend a week at the beach with family there will be a self-satisfied looking gentleman whose own family vacation has brought him to a spot near our blanket. He’ll look like a young Ralph Lauren, legs crossed at the knee in his beach chair, fit, tan, relaxed. He’ll toggle between a novel and a crossword puzzle, digging his toes into the cool sand, occasionally removing his sunglasses to reveal a set of learned eyes and flash a brilliant smile towards his extended family. He’ll survey them the way he does the rhythmic bustle of the ocean. Everything will be in its right place, running just as Ralph would have it. And I swear I was thisclose to being that very guy… that was, until I had kids.

Lost now is the art of deep relaxation and reflection that I used to associate with a beach trip. Not too long ago a few hours at the shore meant two or three crossword puzzles, a good chunk of a novel and maybe an US Weekly. I now joke with Kristen when packing “which book should I bring and consequently not read?” Her usual reply: “Something light…”

We’re heading to the Outer Banks for our yearly trip with Kristen’s family this week and my pre-vacation musings aren’t so much centered on sunsets and seafood and cold drinks that come from blenders as they are focused on diapers, formula and baby monitors.

These days sunscreen needs to be applied and re-applied to innocent, baby skin and a mountain of towels, toys, bags and coolers need to be transported in a heroic effort reminiscent of the Pyramids. Sweat will drip from the tip of my nose as I set up the shade tent, corral Elliott (3) from getting too close to the surf and prevent Margo (11 months) from eating the char of the previous night’s bonfire. Ol’ Ralphy Boy will most likely be taking a self-satisfied nap while this plays out, lest his worldly eyes chafe with empathy at the very sight of such a poor sap.

The leisure has left me.

But perhaps I can look to the others in the house for inspiration. The capacious “Ocean Star” Villa offers all of the amenities. If I can’t relax in this house, with this group, then when can I?

Here is our cast of characters:

Kristen’s mother PatMatriarch, and until the year my brother Mike decides to join us, the undisputed boss of the house. Pat will cram so much stuff into her Nissan Maxima that anything shy of the 8 bedroom house would be insufficient. Sure, she’ll take her glass of Pinot Grigio at 5pm each day but she’ll also do so much cooking, cleaning and caretaking that she’ll be exhausted by the end of the week. Plus, that car isn’t going to re-pack itself for the return trip home…

Uncle Bob—Perhaps a slightly older version of the Ralph Lauren character I envision bumping into with the subtle distinction that Bob will consistently REMIND you of how fit, tan and relaxed he is…

Cousin Kevin—The nature of Kevin’s business eludes us all but it seems to require loads of travel and designer glasses. His laptop will never be more than arm’s length away but I think he has programmed it to make Mojitos…

Sister Kara—Too much like her mother to completely give herself over to relaxation, Kara will threaten leisurely activities like fly fishing, kayaking and parasailing and then stress over not getting to them because she is too busy helping with her nieces and nephews.

Sister Mary/Brother-in-Law Jim (Dennis 9, Erin 7, CeCe 3.5, + Baby Pinto due in Nov.)—Mary looks (and genuinely feels) half-dressed if she doesn’t have a child draped over her. Her brand of relaxation is foreign to most of us and we love her for it. Jim is the engine that keeps the vacation running. He is the keeper of the kitty, the shopper and the packer of coolers. He’ll eke a morsel of peace out of daily trips to Wee Winks Market and a moment or two to himself on the deck but any hopes for more than that left him years ago.

Sister Maggie—This Wilmington Delaware resident with the megawatt smile is never too far removed from the posh life of South Beach. Her milieu is the pool. Her specialty is the nap. When not playing with the kids, leisure will find her naturally.

Sister Betsy (Owen 11 months)—On paper Betsy should be every bit as stressed out as Kristen and I but her exceedingly well-behaved child allows for her leisure time to start promptly at 6:30 pm each evening when he goes down for the night. (I seethe with jealousy.) Of course, a good portion of that free time will be spent selecting a super-cute outfit for Owen’s next day and preparing organic baby meals.


Family Friends Joel and Caitlin (Sebastian 3, Winslow 18 months)—
Joel will close out the poker game somewhere around 1 am and be back up at 6 am cooking breakfast burritos and researching jet ski rentals. I don’t know if he’s relaxed per se, but he’s curiously happy on very little sleep. Caitlin’s plight may more closely resemble my own. I’ve never heard word one of a complaint out of her but I bet she wouldn’t mind the reflection of a quiet hour or two on the beach. Or maybe I’m just hoping that somebody understands what I’m talking about and Caitlin is a level-headed bet…

Family Friend Tony—A late addition to the roster, Tony is the consummate man of leisure. When he is on his game, he can make Mr. Lauren look downright uptight. To boot, Tony has just been liberated from his job so his potential for chill is at an all time high. Thus, I will look to Tony as my Mentor de Leisure. Perhaps I can study his every languishing move, drink what he drinks and emulate his aura.

And of course I know it’s not ABOUT me anymore and I am lucky to be certain. We are building memories for the kids (right?) and I rest assured that these are good ones. I do have great fun playing baseball with Elliott and watching Margo marvel at the ocean so being Ralph Lauren will have to wait for now. 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4 Responses to At the beach with Ralph Lauren

  1. Eileen says:

    Wishing you at least one Ralph moment. Have a great vacation!

  2. Beth Matulewicz says:

    Hysterical Tim, so funny! I can so see each of your cast of characters – the ones we know, you NAILED them! Ha ha – have a great trip!

  3. Becky S says:

    Dude. I hear you. Well, at least you can all share the chaos, instead of it just being confined to your house? Have a great time!

  4. Eileen R says:

    I think I will see similar moments this weekend at the Jersey shore. I don’t think any of my brothers qualify as Ralph either!!! Have a great time!!

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