Oh. My. God. We are coming back here next year," I say. We have just walked up to our little rented beach house, and I might faint. I can't believe this place. It's a lovingly restored Victorian. With a porch. And rocking chairs. There are flowers. And trees! I have never been to a beach house with trees, an asset that just might convert me. I am not a beach person. I am a shade person. The beach is about a 10-minute walk away, and they have umbrellas you can rent. But I might send the husband and kids off and stay here, under these cherry trees . . .

"Oh my God!"

"What!" he says, jumping. He thinks I've just seen a big rat or something.

I point. I try to catch my breath. "Hhhhhoney," I say. "There-is-a-hammock."

The hammock is slung beneath the boughs of maple trees. And over a lush clump of variegated hosta. There is a babbling brook within listening distance. I am going to faint. "We are coming back here next year."

"Can you just help me unpack the car this year?" he says.

"Do you think they are accepting reservations for next summer?"

"Honey!" he says. "Let's do this summer first."

Good point. Hey, I'm excited. This is our first vacation in two years. We missed out last summer because of the usual reasons, time, money. Here, on Day One of a long overdue escape, I am vowing to steal away at least once every year, no matter what.

In the morning we have breakfast on the porch. All of us, cradling bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios, as we rock in our chairs and watch the joggers and bike riders amble by. Everybody looks so happy. So at peace.

"I am so upset about leaving," I say.

"We have six more days," he says.

"We should have booked this place for two weeks. I'm kicking myself for nixing that idea. Kicking myself!"

He's reading the little vacation guide. "There's a jazz festival going on. Let's take the girls, and get lobster."

I tell him I'm going to call the real estate company and see if we can book this place for two weeks next year. "You think if I call now we'll appear too eager, and they'll jack up the price? We have to think about this. What's our strategy?"

He mutters something about getting buckets and building sandcastles.

At the beach, under a red umbrella, I run the numbers. Gently, but firmly, I tell him the plan: We're going to rent the place for the entire month of July next year. If we start saving now, and if we can get my sister, and a few friends, to join in for a weekend here or there, we could do it. "I could work from here," I say. "And you could, you know, do some appointments by phone."

"The kids want ice cream," he says. "You coming?"

The ice cream place is next to a little arcade, and so we all play Skee-Ball and win an incredible 480 tickets, which the girls trade in for little plastic bracelets. "Mom, don't scream," Anna says, before she shows me hers. "It's really pretty, but it's just a bracelet."

I scream. It's all so much fun I might keel over. Everything I see in this little beach town has me jumping for joy.

We stop at the market to pick up something to grill. The store is achingly cute. And I love the way all the old people come in with their flimsy fold-up carts, fill them with fresh fruits and vegetables, and toddle off.

"Where do you suppose they got those carts?" I say. "Can we get one?" And that's when the real plan starts forming. Right there in the market.

"Retirement!" I say. "Honey, let's retire here." I am decades away from retirement, but this is the place.

He throws me a look of surprise. I interpret this to mean: "It's way too expensive."

"That's why we have to get in now!"

That night, after an obligatory horse-and-carriage ride around town, I curl up in bed with some real estate books. I have thought of seven people, including both of my sisters, who would likely want to retire here. I have claimed the bottom-floor condo because of my knees. Either that, or I'll have to put in an elevator. It depends on what sort of property we can find to buy and convert into our retirement commune. I don't know that a Victorian is the best choice for a bunch of old folks. Too much maintenance.

"Maybe we should consider one of these vacant lots, and we can just start from scratch," I'm saying.

He's watching "Law and Order." He's eating fudge. I make the point that he's going all Zen on me. It's an interesting

approach to vacationing. Being in the moment. Letting go of yesterday and tomorrow. "If we act now, we can have a whole retirement like this!" I tell him.

"You are too far gone," he says bluntly. "We need to make sure you get away more often."

Right-o. I return to my real estate book, circle a photo of a vacant lot in a prime location.

Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is post@jmlaskas.com.