Best of times, worst of times on family outing

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Against all odds, we landed in Sarasota the Saturday before July Fourth. It was raining. Over the next 24 hours, the rain pounded the beach. Torrents, sheets . . . whatever cliché leaps to mind, that’s what poured out of the gray skies. Somehow the kids from New York and Fort Lauderdale and California all arrived, and moved into the rented condos we had arranged.

Day two, it rained. Never-ending, monsoon-like downpours soaked the roadways, darkened the windows and flooded out our plans. After so many hours cooped up indoors, the grandkids — 4, 6, 8 and 10 — went berserk. We organized a treasure hunt in our building. It took us 40 minutes to hide the clues and 10 for them to find them. We planted the kids in front of the TV. We gave them our cell phones to play with. We fed them Snickers and Cheez Doodles. We let them paint the dog.

Just how mind-numbingly bored can one get after three days of steady rain? I walked into the condo to find all 12 adults strewn about the floor with needles in their heads, ears, legs and toes. Did I mention that my daughter is an acupuncturist? A psychiatrist, she recently added acupuncture to her practice. Her closest relatives, who knew her back when she licked the ice cube tray and got her tongue stuck to the freezer, actually let her stick needles into their tender parts.

On day four, the rain was light enough to go swimming. My mother, who was, after all, the birthday girl, came down to the beach to watch. Her default mode, hysterical anxiety, quickly accelerated into warp-speed anxiety as she watched her grandkids and great-grandies in the waves. Her eyes locked onto their little bodies, clearly expecting Godzilla to emerge from the waves and carry them out to sea. She wasn’t having fun yet.

The Fourth of July was a day for the memory book. First, at 6:45 a.m., my nephew caught the largest snook anyone remembers catching on Longboat Key. Later, we hauled out the paddleboards, surfboards and boogie boards. Everyone in the water! Several of the kids paddled out into a pod of dolphins — a strange encounter of the nautical kind. They said the water around the dolphins smelled like fish.
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