A family vacation

by Don Bingham

Even knowing that it would be difficult to get 19 of us together for a week, we decided to take a chance anyway. Sixteen of us went to Perdido Key, Fla., for a family vacation!

In preparation for the trip, we did a family garage sale, saved our pennies and rented two condo units a few blocks from the beach. With this number of people, you know that everyone has a different idea on everything! Five of them are our married children – all established with “minds of their own” – and seven are grandchildren – three of which are new babies that have just been added to the family tree!

Jackson Williams (front, from left), Cain Newton, Garrett McCollum, Lando Newton and Talon Newton; Mary Helen Rose Faulkner (back) grandparents Don and Nancy Bingham and Ellie Bingham.

The sleeping arrangements were less than stellar, and “Nino and Nana” (grandparents, me and my wife, Nancy) ended up sleeping, or trying to sleep, with a different bed/floor/couch schedule each night, trying to accommodate everyone else and keep the three new babies and their schedules all working together! We really didn’t mind the aches and pains, the air-conditioning unit roaring or the threat of snakes on the condo steps at night. After all, it was a vacation!

Once there and the “arriving traumas” had subsided, we were off to a grand start and able to enjoy the jellyfish stings. Only one grandson thought the sting was “nigh unto death,” and one of the funnier moments was when a son-in-law did a remarkable rendition of what the trauma looked like for all of Perdido Key beach comers to see!

You will recall that the irony of “Tropical Storm DON” was approaching Galveston and pointed west, but this did, seemingly, not threaten us. We had set up a 10-by-10 tent on the beach. It housed about eight chairs (no one knows for sure), all the sand tools and toys – it was perfect! We spent a few hours on the beach that afternoon and headed out to dinner and an evening of SKIPBO competition, with bracket set-ups for everyone! The next morning, our daughter and her son who were most excited about getting to the beach first sent us a text of “HELP!! We need you all at the beach!”

All our beach gear was GONE, and so was everyone’s for miles around! Upon arrival, we discovered hundreds of people digging – four and five feet deep in water and sand – trying to retrieve what had been covered by the new landscape caused by “DON!” We did find three boogie boards located five high-rises down the coast. The tent was never seen again, and someone in Miami is enjoying all our chairs!

Being the connoisseurs we are of great food, my wife and I have a favorite place we like to eat about 30 minutes away from Perdido Key in Foley, Ala. Slightly gourmet, delightful New Orleans style, we have eaten there several times. I felt it my duty to introduce everyone to this culinary treat.

It seemed best to take them in shifts. Because of the traffic, the stop-and-go aspect of lots of tourists and the slow going drivers, it took about an hour to get to Foley. The first crew set the pace for what was to follow! After thirty minutes with babies crying, the heat, several of us stuffed in the car with baby carriers, etc. – what was “the sweet aroma of dining out” was turning into “you said this was just around the corner” and “where did you say we are going” and “why are we doing this!”

With each new crew I could anticipate how long the patience was going to last before the whining set in. You would have thought I had invited them to Saudi Arabia for camel steaks! On one trip, the 4-month-old baby had become accustomed to music being played as she slept. I had no problem with this, except it was “country music” that was the music of choice (at least the choice of the parents – I still don’t know why the baby could not sleep to Mozart or Rachmaninoff). I don’t remember too much, as I was trying to pray while it was playing, but the song had to do with “sins of the father on the child” or “my mother is in jail” or something like that. We did manage to eat out in Foley at least three times. Each trip was a new revelation in human nature, but the food was delicious!

The family picture shoot on the beach was a hoot! I’ve included a picture of the three newest babies for your enjoyment! They are Ellie Grace, Jackson Vertis and Mary Helen Rose! I had been to the outlet mall that day and was determined to buy them their very first Strasberg for Children outfit for a picture! Well, as you can see, Jackson was incensed at the thought and reacted immediately when set in the sand! I later got a scolding text from Jackson’s dad for dressing him like the girls . . . although he did admit it was a great picture! We managed to get one or two good shots of the entire family before the joy-of-it “beach photography” disappeared!

We had a great time! Most of the family said they would do it again – some will only go if they can fly in and out! I, personally, will do it again if we can have a second successful garage sale to anticipate paying for the $185 speeding ticket I got on the way home, in case that happens again on the next trip.

Among the highlights for me were seeing the children as adults with families of their own; seeing their devotion to their spouses – especially the ones who were not able to come and be a part of it all – spending hours on the phone with their long-distance relationship via texting, phone video, emails, tons of computer hookups and battery chargers everywhere! Playing with the grandchildren was sheer delight, especially before their parents began to have the desire to “leave for home early.” They began leaving in stages – a day early, some driving all night so the babies would sleep. Nancy and I were the last to arrive and the last to leave the condo!

I’m so thankful for family and the many memories of our family vacations!