Family vacation

If there is one thing I can say about a week at the beach with my entire family, it’s, “Wow, that was an incredible amount of family time!”
That sentence can be taken two very different ways. For those of you who don’t get to connect with your family on a regular basis, you may be pining for a family reunion or a Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday, thinking, “Gosh, I wish we could get together more often.”

The other way is from people who come from big families who are around each other all the time and think, “And we’re doing this again at the family reunion and Thanksgiving and Christmas!?!?!?”
Yes, I come from a large family, and we all live in close proximity. Every couple of years, we make a great big family sojourn to the beach to spend time together as a family, as we often do on, say, a random Tuesday.
But this trip was to one of our favorite places on the planet, Kiawah Island, where we have been visiting for more than 30 years. There were 14 of us — my parents, my three sisters and their spouses, my wife and kids and my two nephews. (If you’re doing the math and it’s not adding up, remember to add me. I was there, too.)
I kid about the excessive amount of family time. I’m fortunate that I have my family this close and we have the opportunity to take these trips together. For one thing, it’s definitely the stuff of the grandkids’ childhoods that will be the cornerstones of their memories.
We had a great week, and I figured the best way to break it down was by the numbers. I will let you decide which numbers are more estimates.
0 — The number of times I was legitimately tagged in Sharks and Minnows during a pool game with my kids and nephews.
1 — The number of times I was called out as tagged by a crooked judge — my brother-in-law — who was clearly being paid off by the kids. I touched the wall.
3 — The number of baby sea turtles we saw released into the ocean. If there is a cuter creature on the planet than a baby sea turtle, then it is the lovechild of a wombat and a koala bear.
6 — Number of times my sister said, “We’re being THAT family” as I was trying to take goofy pictures on the beach. Among those were perspective shots which made it appear I was holding my son in the palm of my hand, a picture that looked as if my daughter were dangling me by the hair like a Christmas tree ornament, and a picture in which my son is using The Force on me.
63 — The size, in feet, of the shark I saw. At least, that’s what my nephew thinks. I took my wife and kids on a boat ride one night, and we saw a shark feeding by the shore. Upon returning home, I told my nephew, who is 6, that the shark was 63 feet long and attacked our boat. I sacrificed myself to save the boat and the family, but I fought myself out from the inside, taking its heart with me to hold up as a warning to all other sharks, who reverently surfaced and bowed in submission. On his walk home, he asked his mother, “Did Uncle Mike really do that?” She better not have crushed the Super Uncle Mike illusion.
101.8 — My fever on the Saturday we left. Many people say they need a vacation after a vacation. I opted for a sick day. If you’re going to get sick at the beach, get sick when all that is on your agenda is to climb in the back seat of a car and sleep.
800 — The wind speed, in mph, on the beach when I tried to ride bikes with my kids. The only upside to soldiering on through the ride? The rocket-speed you can achieve on your return voyage with a tail-wind of that magnitude.

And lastly, and a smidge out of turn:
7 — The number of fantastic days you get to log in the memory banks when your whole big ol’ family gets to go to the beach together. Family time. It’s pretty awesome. Almost as awesome as escaping a 63-foot shark.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., where he lives with his wife and two kids. A graduated of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

Leave a Reply