When I go out of town, I want the weather in the place I’m going to be better than it is at home. If I go to Florida, I want it to be 80 degrees and sunny every day — but while I’m away, I want St. Louis to be cloudy, windy, and 10 degrees. It’s nothing personal against friends and colleagues here, but what’s the use of going away if I’m not going to enjoy a better climate than if I had stayed home? I want to hear, “Wow, you picked the perfect week to go away, because it was nasty here the whole time!”
My wife and I don’t have a great track record in this regard with our winter vacations. It’s not that the weather at home isn’t as bad as we want it to be, it’s that the conditions in the supposedly sunny, warm destination aren’t as good as we hope it will be. We went to Hawaii for a week and it rained for five days. We went to Grand Cayman for four days and the sun didn’t come out until the last one. We went to Cancun and the wind blew so hard the trees were parallel to the Earth, not to mention the rainstorm that hit just as we got to the top of the Chichen Itza pyramid. One year, we went to Antigua (in the Caribbean) and suffered through a cold drizzle while our hometown enjoyed a historic January heat wave.
This weekend, we went to Florida to celebrate my only surviving aunt’s 90th birthday. Family members came from all over (even Paris!), and we had a very nice time seeing cousins and others we don’t get to see that often. My brother was there with his wife and two young sons, and we figured we’d take our daughter and his boys to the beach at least once, where we could lay in the warm sun while they frolicked in the surf and sand.
That was the idea, anyway. The reality was that, the day before we arrived, the high temperature in South Florida was 82 degrees. The day we touched down in Fort Lauderdale it was 42, and didn’t get much above the mid-fifties all weekend. Still, my nephews had never had a winter beach vacation, and since we live in the middle of the country, being on a beach isn’t an everyday experience for us either.
So we hopped in the rental cars and drove over to Delray Beach, which would normally be packed with similarly-minded vacationers at this time of the year. At the very least, we figured the kids would play in the sand, dip their toes in the Atlantic, and that would be about it. Instead, the kids peeled off their clothes and jumped into the water, ready to do some wave-jumping and body-surfing, while my brother and I exchanged glances that said, “If anything goes wrong, you dive in with all your clothes on and I’ll be your backup.”
Although the water wasn’t as cold as we thought it would be, as adults, our body thermostats had ruled out the possibility of actually getting wet. We knew that, despite the not-so-frigid water temperature, the air was cold enough to cause shrinkage all by itself, an effect that would only be heightened when moist. But kids have a different tolerance level for that sort of thing — witness any number of goose-bumped children whose lips have turned a deep shade of blue while insisting to their parents that they weren’t even mildly chilly. They played in the ocean for quite awhile before our parental instincts forced us to wave them ashore, at which time they were swaddled in more layers than a newborn at the North Pole.
It wasn’t exactly the beach vacation the adults had hoped for, but smiles shone on the younger faces, which is what counts. Considering all the cheek-squeezing they had to endure at the hands of their relatives during the weekend’s festivities (“look how much you’ve grown!”), it seemed like a good trade-off.
Naturally, as soon as we left our South Florida vacation behind, their daytime highs returned to the upper 70s and low 80s. The good news is that, now that we’re home, St. Louis is getting over its own cold snap and warming up to the upper 50s this week.
My daughter will probably want to wear her swimsuit to school.