The Book of Not-So-Bright Ideas: Chapter One: Grandparents Spring Break

RehobothBeachI recently read a book titled ‘The Book of Bright Ideas’, and wanted to emulate it. Except, I would title it ‘The Book of Not-So-Bright Ideas.’

Grandparents Spring Break may have been of one of those.

Let me explain. Our daughter-in-law was on spring break, which consisted of leaving her demanding school schedule for what might be a more demanding child-care schedule. This, plus some quick rescheduling by our daughter left us with a whole week off from babysitting.

“Let’s go south to find the spring!” I declared happily.

My brother had recently moved to Virginia Beach. I figured that this was as far south as we could drive to and from in a week, and that it would be warm, green and wonderful.

“Virginia Beach has a 3 mile long boardwalk!” I pointed out excitedly.

“Do you know what a boardwalk is?” my husband asked. “And have you been listening to the weather? There’s a huge snowstorm about to engulf the entire east coast. We’d be headed straight into it.”

“Same old, same old.” I muttered. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

Oh well. Spring is no big deal, I thought as I looked glumly at my snow-covered back yard. I’ve seen it 62 times already. Its no world-changing miracle. Plus… we could get a lot spring cleaning done with no kids around…

So, with that thought in mind, I was, to significantly understate the matter, pretty much over the moon when my husband squinted at his computer and declared. “I think we can just make it. Lets pack.”

It went well…at first.

Our car trips start early because my husband is an very early riser. I get up, grab a cup of tea and watch the sun rise from the passenger seat. We talk, or don’t talk, and stop for a good breakfast after driving for a few hours. It always amazes me when I get up in Massachusetts and am in New Jersey before noon. And the maple trees were red. Or at least, I was sure that I could see that faint red cast that foretells spring. For me. Some folks get excited about flowers but I’m a tree girl. That hint of red is my personal promise from God that soon all will be well again.

As we drove, we tried to remember the last time we had taken a road trip. We’d gone somewhere, we thought. Was it Washington D.C.? Was it in 2007? How long ago was that? What had we been doing for the last few years? Why haven’t we done this more often?

I was excited. Each mile revealed yet another subtle sign of spring.


Until about 2pm. Then as we gazed into the distance, we saw another more ominous familiar sight. It had gotten a bit darker, and in the distance was a faint, transparent white hue, like a blurry grayish smear…

“No!” I cried. “No!”

“It’s OK, lov. Our hotel is less than an hour away.”

The first flakes were hitting as we carried our luggage inside. And when we woke up the next morning, the world was white. Trees were covered with snow, and it was cold. We got up and drove, thru white outs from snow blowing off the trees, swerved around the drifts blowing into the road from the open fileds. Down through central Delaware to Rehoboth Beach. There we got out and took pictures of a snow-covered boardwalk and a desolate beach. We continued along the coast into Maryland and into Ocean City. As we drove, patches of ice fell onto the windshield. It looked just like New England.

“You sure you want to walk the boardwalk at Virginia Beach?” asked my husband.

“It’s cold and windy.” I shuddered. “No!”

My husband swears that he saw daffodils, but all I remember is snow, cold, and later, rain. We visited my brother and his sister, but I never got a walk in, and I never found Spring. Grandparents Spring Break might well be Chapter One is the Book of Not-So-Bright Ideas.

Except. It was a really good trip.

In truth, Spring is a miracle that never disappoints. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it. It’s like ice cream or chocolate, it is prosaic, accessible magic. In the Spring, each day gets better. And I know that soon, I will walk outside barefoot, feel the sun hot on my back, and put my fingers and toes into the dirt. It is a commonplace, everyday gift from a prodigious God, available to everyone of us, every year. And each week, we get a different flower. I’ve always been a cynic, and felt that flowers were a frivolous and short-lived diversion from real life, something for people less serious then myself. But my oldest grandson loves them. All spring and summer, he goes outside, picks a flower and brings it in for Grandpa or Ane. His joy in this is changing me, despite myself.

I did not find spring on our trip south.

But life has other prosaic, assessable miracles. While trying to find Spring, I re-found the person that I fell in love with 36 years ago. That man who still exists underneath the layers of everyday cares, frustrations, and responsibilities. The one who I don’t always notice during my single-minded focus of getting the next task done, or during the arguments about who volunteered to babysit, and ‘who’ is doing the actual babysitting. Maybe he found the women that he married as well, somewhere in there underneath all the layers of cynicism and all things that stress her out.

Our kids did call us, frequently, as we traveled further and further south. Our youngest grandchild had developed a taste for cell-phone batteries and had tried to eat the one from his fathers phone (the grandson is fine, the battery is dead). Since our son is still on our phone plan, could we just come back soon and authorize a a new phone? Plus magic nanny had called to say that her doctor had put her on bed-rest for the rest of her pregnancy. Could we sub for her for awhile?

“Please? Could you come home soon, Mom and Dad?”

But we were in Virginia, looking for spring. We were on Grandparents Spring Break, and there were no assignments due. Our cares would resume soon enough, but for now, life was good. It was a chance to get away and enjoy being with each other – to be ‘not’ grandparents’ but the partners, lovers, and best friends that we’ve been for the past 36 years.

Come to think of it, Grandparents Spring Break just might have been the Brightest Idea of all.

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