ALREADY, THE STORY has made our A vacation. "On the Beach," declared the headline about Virginia Beach that came into our house on Sunday. "Residents' Spirits Aren't Lifted by Life in Honky-Tonk Heaven." Maybe the residents' spirits weren't lifted, but the fact that Virginia Beach is being heralded as the Sin City of the East Coast has done wonders for the spirits of our teen-agers. Virginia Beach, it turns out, is a quick car ride from where we are going on vacation. Finally, we are going to be going to where the action is.
Going on vacation never used to be as complicated an adventure as it has gotten to be in modern times. It used to be that you could call up the rental agency and reserve the same cottage you always reserved in August and then you would load all your children in the car, take off to the Bay Bridge, wait for a couple of hours to cross the bridge and then arrive at the beach for a week and everyone would be thrilled by the sand and the water and the grandeur of it all, or at least be thrilled by going crabbing.
But crabbing and the grandeur of it all won't do anymore. Now, we go to the beach with teen-agers. Teen-agers don't want grandeur. They want action.
Several years ago, we began going to the beach with our closest friends and their children. The first year we went to Fenwick Island, managing to rent a smashing house on the beach, sight-unseen, that suited us perfectly. We read novels under the sun, fixed lunch whenever we wanted to, ate dinners we had prepared back home (We were not about to pay resort prices for food.) and watched the sun set. The children went out for ice cream at night and to the movies and they played hearts while we played bridge and when we really wanted a thrill we played moontag under the stars. We all had a marvelous time.
That November, my husband suggested that I reserve the house for a week during the following summer. I told him November was far too early to be reserving a place for a week in August. In March, my friend Virginia called. "Shall we go to the beach together again this summer?" she said. We said that was a terrific idea. And I said I would call and reserve the house.
The rental agent acted as though I'd lost my mind. "That house was booked solid in November," she said.
"But I didn't call until May last year and it was still available in August," I wailed.
"That was during the gas crisis," she said. "There's no gas crisis this year. Fenwick Island's booked solid."
Let us not dwell here upon what my husband said because he didn't say anything, except even when I acknowledged that he had been right. "I'm not saying a thing," he said, pointedly.
From that day forward, the search for a summer house on the water the last week of August began in earnest. We quickly found out that business on the Maryland beaches had never been better. By the end of the week, Virginia had an idea.
"How about the Outer Banks?" she said. The Outer Banks were six hours away, a consideration when one is traveling with a 1-year-old and a 4-year old, but the Outer Banks had empty houses, and one of them became ours for the last week of August. "It's out of the way," said Virginia.
"How out of the way?" asked my son the teen-ager.
"Well," said Virginia's husband, "It's eight miles to the nearest store."
My son thought he was kidding.
As it turned out, the Wee Winkie in Duck was the last stop in civilization before we dropped off the end of the Outer Banks. Our destination was Ocean Sands. Our station wagon was loaded with enough supplies for a week. Not long after Duck, the paved road gave way to packed sand. "I don't believe this," said my son.
"I have to go to the john," said my husband, steering with gritted teeth into the unending desolation. Twenty minutes later, we rounded a curve and came upon a setting of beautiful summer homes, spaced neatly apart, Nirvana compared to the human crush on the Maryland/Delaware beaches. For the adults, it was a week of sublime tranquility, a week of spotting sand sharks, dolphins, playing volleyball, reading, and getting away from aggravations of modern life.
It was only this past February, that we got a clue what it had been like for the teen-agers. One night we were visiting our friends and somebody brought up our holiday at the beach. We wanted to get an early start on finding a place this year. "Let's go back to the Outer Banks," said Virginia, brightly, as her teen-ager and my teen-ager exchanged Significant Glances. "Let's go for TWO WEEKS this year!"
"MOM!" came the shrieks of anguish. "THERE'S NOTHING TO DO DOWN THERE. WE'D GO CRAZY."
Well, as it turned out, we were once again late in our quest for a beachhouse and we have ended up in a place called Sandbridge, which was described to us as a nice, family beach. It's 20 minutes below Virginia Beach, according to our sources on such matters, close enough to the Strip that our teen-agers won't perish from boredom. I don't begrudge them a thing, though. I was a teen-ager once and I remember the beach and the bonfires and the action. Who would have thought that one day I'd be satisfied with mere grandeur?