No Sugar Added: Vacationland isn't for sissies

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Who knew that living at the beach could be so torturous?

Me: Who wants to go for a walk on the beach?

My children: Ohhh Mom, do we have to?

Or, the equally charming response: Not me!

It’s July. I drive down the street to the beach – it’s so close to my home that the engine of my car barely warms up by the time I’ve arrived. How lucky am I?

When I first began plotting my move away from the Boston suburbs, I clearly remember my goal being to live within a 20-minute drive of the ocean. That was my greatest hope. Nirvana. I imagined how wonderful it would be to pile my kids into the car, throw in a canvas tote bag brimming with sunscreen and snacks and chilly beverages, toss in a good-sized stack of oversized, colorful towels, and in one third of an hour, have our toes in the Atlantic.

Who knew I’d be so fortunate as to end up with an ocean view (at least from my driveway.) I recall the first summer I lived here I was in awe of the fact that I did, as my license plate clearly stated, reside in “Vacationland.”

And now, as we’re on the verge of celebrating the seventh anniversary of our move to Maine, I’m still slightly shocked when I overhear someone on a cell phone, standing in the parking lot at my beach, looking longingly out at the ocean, and saying something to a distant loved one along these lines: ”Hi, we just got here. Traffic wasn’t too bad. It’s so beautiful! We’ll be home next Saturday.”

The first time I overheard a conversation like that, I froze in my tracks, and felt a sense of great fortune, realizing that while I was merely on my daily beach stop, these people only got to experience this for maybe seven days out of 365.

I wanted to shout, “Hey! I live here! Can you believe I get to do this every day?!”

Because, yes, during these gorgeous summer months, I truly still cannot believe I get to do this every day.

Of course, I wouldn’t ever shout something like that to a visitor, because that would just be cruel, not to mention ill mannered. But there’s something inside of me that feels so fortunate, I often need to tape my mouth in order to contain my emotion.

Last night, I was walking on the beach at sunset with two of my teenage offspring. (Yes, they do sometimes succumb, although prying the male child from the comfort of his hi-speed fan was no easy task.)

Heaven? No. Just an ordinary evening in Vacationland.

A couple of summers ago, we arrived home one evening to find an envelope wedged in our kitchen door, containing a note from a man visiting from the other side of the country. His aunt apparently used to own our home, and he had treasured memories of summers spent visiting her while he was growing up. The envelope contained what was apparently our old cellar door key, along with a handful of photos documenting our house from various incarnations in the early and mid 1900s.

It was one of the sweetest and most meaningful gifts anyone had ever given us – partly because it was so unexpected, and spoke so quietly of such sentiment and love for this special place.

As my kids and I gaze into the photos, we talk wistfully about what it must have been like back then, when the trees that now block most of our ocean views were small or nonexistent, when farmers owned most of the land, and when you could sit on the porch and see only water for miles and miles.

And as I entertain romantic visions of the loving mothers who came before me, strolling to the beach with picnic hampers and checkered blankets and happy bathing-suited children wanting to frolic at the seashore, I’m quite certain my own prodigies are imagining all of the generations of poor, helpless children that came before them, being dragged against their will to the beach by annoyingly enthusiastic mothers.

Ahhhh, “Vacationland.”

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at