Wake up at six in the morning, load up the car, then got on the road a few minutes later. Once I’m out of the city I roll down the windows and let the summer air blow through my hair, the feeling good against my semi-balding scalp while I have the music turned up way too loud. Although it’s early, the world is bathed in the soft glow of the morning sunlight. I’m happy; everything is perfect. I’m leaving behind all my responsibilities, all my worries and cares, there’s a smile on my face, and it’s likely to stay tattooed there for the next week. There is so much possibility about the days ahead, so much hope, so much excitement. It’s a little like Christmas morning as a child, only it lasts for seven wonderful days. I’m going to Orange Beach, Alabama, one of my favorite places in the world for one of my favorite weeks of the year, and life couldn’t get any better.
I’ll pull into the parking lot of the beachside condominium complex with a name as tropical as the ocean on the other side of it. I’ll step out of the car and although my windows have been rolled down for most of the drive and faint scents of the sea air have passed through my car as I inched closer to the coast, it was never as strong and beautiful as it is here, at the source. With it comes longing to be strolling in the sand towards the gulf and a flood of memories about all of the great summers past. I walk into my grandparents condo, set my bag down on the glistening white tile of the kitchen floor and make my way through the living room towards the sliding glass door, through which I can see the beautifully hued blue water that stretches much farther than I can see or even comprehend. I open the door and there’s the smell again, the salty sea aroma of a perfect day, then I take a seat in one of the reclining lounge chairs on the back porch, taking in the sight of pure tranquility as the symphony of gently crashing waves washes over me, lulling me into a state of contentedness that I haven’t felt for some time.
By that night the condo will be full, full of family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and a cozy warmth will have descended over condo number 111 that will remain until we all say our goodbyes a week later, but we’re much too happy to think about that so early in the vacation. Over the course of the week there will be lots of fun to be had, reading in the big padded beach chairs down by the water, splashing in the ocean, and late night trips to the sauna and the swimming pools. We will eat many fantastic meals featuring the best seafood I’ve ever had, and have Sunday brunch at a fantastic restaurant overlooking the marina packed with boats of all shapes and sizes bobbing gently in the water below. We might even go see a late night movie or two at the spur of the moment, because when you’re on vacation, there’s really no need to make plans. We’ll do what we want and we’ll have a great time doing it. I can’t wait to be in Orange Beach, a paradise that will be waiting for my arrival in five months.