FOR THE PAST six years (and hopefully for the next 60 years), my sister-in-law, Susan Roberts, has invited her family to spend a week with her at a beach house in Cape Hatteras. This vacation has become an event that allows the Roberts clan to spend a week sunning, eating, shopping, relaxing and just being silly. Our lodging is always a very nice ocean-side beach house.

Highlights from past trips include a sun-tanning contest between myself and my father-in-law, capturing a cooler full of toads (and later releasing them) and hot-tubbing with a blow-up shark. Of course, it was a memorable year when my father-in-law made an appearance in my mother-in-law's bra (sorry, but it would take a lot more than 500 words to explain). And one year, everyone conveniently passed around a flu bug during the week. We have, on occasion, taken a tape recorder to capture the, shall I say, more memorable moments of the vacation for family members unable to attend.

Just to put this vacation in perspective, my newly married brother-in-law, Matt, and his wife, Kathleen, actually delayed their honeymoon so they could come to the beach with the rest of us.

J. DAVID BLACK

Winchester, Va.

Dare County Tourist Bureau, 1-800-446-6262, www.outerbanks.org.