Love and magic in O.C.; A memorable...


Love and magic in O.C.; A memorable vacation

A vacation isn't a real vacation unless it includes the beach. Our first family vacation to Ocean City was the realization of a dream for me. I could do something my friends had done: vacation at the beach.

As a 7-year-old, I was afraid a vacation would be too much fun for Dad to allow. After all, I was restricted from most other fun activities. I wasn't allowed to wear jeans or sandals, or to watch television after school, or to have soda with my meals. My father, a dignified school teacher, admitted to everyone that he was strict. When I learned that beach vacations involved men going without shirts in public, I gave up hope. Dad never even allowed anybody to see his bare feet.

But, by some luck, Dad took us. As soon as I saw the ocean, I wanted to run right into it. After we unpacked the car and slathered ourselves white with sunscreen, my brother and I endured a lecture. The topic was an evil force called the Undertow. This force was invisible, but real, and it could suck an unsuspecting person out to sea in a twinkling. Dad, who grew up in Cumberland and couldn't swim a stroke, clearly respected it.

At last, my brother and I were free to play at the water's edge. I called it the Magic Zone, and was enthralled by the seashells and pebbles that churned in the breaking waves. I was determined to bring home the perfect, intact shell as a reminder of the beach, and devoted myself to finding it. Meanwhile, my brother built sand castles, and my mother soaked up the sun. We ate the most forbidden junk food right on the beach.

My poor father huddled in the shade of the umbrella and sweated. Clearly, this was not his idea of a good time. His skin was already bright pink, and he was wearing a cap over his bald spot to protect it from further sunburn. Since he couldn't see without his glasses, he kept them on each time he padded, cautiously, into the water to cool off, never letting it rise above his waist.

Suddenly, he was bending over just as a wave broke over his head. His hat was floating in the water. Why did he bend down? Had he been taken by the Undertow?

Mercifully, he reappeared holding his glasses and looking sheepish. Making his way back up to us, he pressed something into my hand. It was a gray wrinkled oyster shell. "I saw a perfect shell for you right by my feet. But the light, the water ... this is what I came up with." I took it wordlessly. How could I say how happy I was that he came up at all?

So it can't be a vacation without the beach, the Magic Zone where the rules are relaxed and a man can show his daughter the depth of his love.

T.L. Pownell lives in Westminster. Bermuda

Bertha Nist, Glen Burnie

"It's a little piece of real estate chopped right from heaven. It's close enough for a weekend visit with enough activities for a week. It's a golfer's paradise and a beachcomber's delight."

Birch Island

Paula Senay Smith, Churchville

"Ion Attean Lake in Jackman, Maine. At Attean Lake Lodge our family is pampered with three meals a day, a private cabin and the Maine wilderness to explore. A sunset paddle to watch moose feed makes the trip complete."


Cathy Boyd, White Hall

"I've been to many Caribbean islands, but Aruba remains my favorite. Constant trade winds make it almost bug free. There's little crime, the streets are immaculate and there are no slums."

Bora Bora

Becky and Don Hartman, Baltimore

"It's a jewel in a coral-reef setting that luxuriates in the middle of the South Pacific. The flavors of French Polynesia and the Pacific Rim come together to provide an atmosphere of beauty and peace."

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