Our theme for the month of September is Alphabet Soup. Each writer was assigned a letter and will title their post “___ is for ___.”
On Saturday, it begins. A entire week in Maine.
My brother Andrew, my husband Steve, and I are the last to arrive, but only because we spent a long time perusing a tiny local bookstore on the way up. My sister and Jake, her fiancé, promptly give us a tour of this year’s beach rental. They are sure to point out a large glass-topped table on the porch that has already been designated the “puzzle table.” Having a puzzle on beach week is very important. The house has been affectionately dubbed “Mermaid Cottage,” the way beach houses in beach towns often are. It’s clear the owners have fully embraced this as every horizontal surface is either decorated with mermaid paraphernalia or mentions mermaids in some way. (Later, we will take bets on how many mermaids are in the house, deciding to also count the word “Mermaid.” We later include clauses to also count the word “Mermaizing.” The final count is sixty-seven. Mom wins with the closest bet at sixty-five.)
My brother doesn’t attend the tour because as soon as he drops his bag he decides it’s time for a “Ginny Weasley.” This involves going to the local soda fountain where an eighteen-year-old on summer break will make you a Lime Ricky: a combination of lime juice, cranberry syrup and seltzer. The next step is taking it home, drinking a few inches off the top, and filling the void with Bombay Sapphire, which we keep stocked in large quantities safely in the freezer. My mom introduced us to the drink a few years ago, and my sister coined the name for the newly spiked version.
After the tour, we eat a light dinner and take a walk to visit friends who are staying down the street. The pastor who married me offers us all generous pours of whiskey. It’s not long before the “kids” (me, my husband, my brother, my sister, and my sister’s fiancé) decide it’s time to walk on the beach. We roll up our jeans to feel the cold water on our toes and run back and forth along the shoreline. I am a little drunk and deliriously happy. I have the whole week ahead of me with my family, and they are without a doubt my favorite people in the world.
On day two, we go to church at “The Temple,” which is a round barn-like building with high ceilings. The visiting preacher is just okay but the long-form prayer is done by an NYC school teacher who gives what my sister later calls a “woke prayer,” that mentions many form of injustice and recognizes white privilege.
After church, we head to the beach. When low tide comes, we play Kubb, a Swedish lawn game that is really just throwing sticks at blocks, but is played best when sand is firmly packed.
The next day is almost identical to the first with the exception of church. We read on the porch or lean over the puzzle in the mornings until someone proclaims, “It’s a beautiful day and we’re inside!” and then we need to get to the beach ASAP. This usually doesn’t happen until around noon. We pack a cooler full of beer and sandwiches and seltzer as well as games and books. We pull our supplies in a wagon we found in the garage. When the light gets low we head home for dinner, grabbing a Lime Rickey on the way home and drinking the Ginny Weasley while we grill. The days don’t vary much, and nobody minds.
Tuesday is different because my parents leave early that morning to make an appearance at our church’s annual summer retreat, which is happening at a summer camp close by. They won’t return until Wednesday afternoon. My brother wakes us with a group-text that reads “kid house!” It’s funny because he is twenty-seven and I am almost thirty. We spend the whole day at the beach, and I spend the evening taking engagement photos of Abby and Jacob. When we get home from the photoshoot, Steve has been to the grocery store and he and Andrew are chopping vegetables and sautéing steak and chicken for a late dinner of tacos. I still have a Ginny Weasley to finish but I jump right in by getting started on the margaritas.
At some point after dinner, we realize that Andrew has disappeared. When I text him to see where he went, he replies, “Come to the clubs,” meaning the dive bar at the end of the boardwalk in the neighboring town, about a mile and a half away. It’s almost eleven by now, but we decide we will will join him. When we locate my brother he is talking to three girls, and Steve ushers my sister and I away from our brother saying, “Don’t ruin it!” and we go sit at the end of the boardwalk. Andrew joins us later and we share a cigarette. He admits that the girls were French-Canadian and only one of them spoke English.
At some point we go back inside to get vodka sodas and end up on the dance floor. It’s a dive and it’s a Tuesday so we are the only people dancing. Still, this entertains us for quite a while. When the bar closes at 1 a.m., we decide to walk back via the beach instead of the streets. On the walk home, we’re laughing and singing. “Shallow” and “King of the Road” are some classics in the late-night a capella set. On Wednesday morning we all have headaches but collectively agree it was worth it. Mom and Dad joke that they are never leaving their kids home alone again.
The last few days are similar to the first few. We go to the beach, read, work on the puzzle, and grill dinner. At first, the time passed slowly. On day four, we were jumping in the surf yelling, “It’s only Tuesday!” But when Thursday comes, I can already feel it slipping away. And on the MetroNorth train back to Brooklyn, I’m crying. I tell my husband that I know it’s silly, because my whole family lives close by and I see them all the time. But I know that won’t be forever. And I know there’s nothing quite like Higgins Family Beach Week.
Caroline (Higgins) Nyczak (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.