Vacation, for us, is a shore thing

Being well married to a beach lover, I've learned to tolerate beaches. Or at least beach towns.

They have bookstores to browse in, antiques shops to lighten your wallet, and restaurants to do the opposite to your weight. Not to mention hotel rooms to nap in. I've come to appreciate and understand all that.

The behavior of the bathing-suit crowd on actual beaches, however, remains baffling to me.

Slathered in greasy kid stuff, they baste horizontally on invisible spits, turning periodically until barbecued. Whereupon they hop into horseless carriages, chug home in a 20-mile traffic jam, and rhapsodize about the next outing.

Count me out!

Not a month after our marriage, my unsuspecting bride learned my views during our first beach trip. I spent the day under an umbrella, clad in hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long trousers.

I sat with my back to the water, typing a speech - and being stared at, for some reason.

The only good beach, we "right thinkers" know, sprouts trees and a hammock, against a backdrop of mountains. And nary a globule of sand or water.

Water should be used if you're dirty or thirsty. Other than that....

Which is why our family generally vacations at the, um, beach.

But we haven't taken a summer vacation yet this year; other activities have intruded. Now it's time to think of sand and sea. The beach season is setting like the sun in the west, and looming is my wife's return to a school year of work.

For her, beaches are the staff of life, and this year the vacation plans are her call. Will she select the convenience of Maryland's Eastern Shore? The known pleasures of Cape Cod? The freshness of first-time exploration on North Carolina's barrier islands?

Send for brochures, I say. Select the beach you find most nourishing, and make reservations for us. I'm happy to go: In 42 years of marriage, you learn to give a little.

Two weeks later, comes announcement night. The brochures are spread out, the explanation begins. She's made reservations in ... Charlottesville, Va. Five hours from the beach, and cheek-by-jowl with the mountains.

Giving is a two-way street.

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