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The Mom Stop column: Beach break really refreshes

Lydia Seabol Avant
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Pawhuska Journal-Capital

It felt as though we were doing something unlawful or wrong as we loaded the family van last weekend and headed toward the Georgia coast. We filled the vehicle with suitcases, the kids’ scooters, the slip ’n slide and even a bouncy house, along with beach toys.

After being home and largely shut in since mid-March, the feeling of cabin fever had set in long ago. Our nerves were shot after weeks of nothing but each other, our two dogs and our tiny home. The kids were arguing more, our 5-year-old seemed to be forever whining and we were frazzled. We needed to get away - but how could we, safely, in the midst of a pandemic?

A few weeks before Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I sat down to discuss our options. Early during the pandemic, we had canceled a spring break trip to visit my in-laws, who live about an hour inland from Savannah and the Georgia coast. We hadn’t seen them in what seemed like forever - in reality, about six months. Although they are considered high risk of developing COVID-19 because of their age, our kids desperately wanted to go see their grandparents, and they wanted to see us.

So, on Mother’s Day weekend, two weeks before we planned to leave, we tightened our quarantine practices. The kids hadn’t left the neighborhood in weeks anyway, but we made sure they weren’t around any other neighborhood children. While we already wore masks in public, used hand sanitizer and wiped down groceries with disinfectant when we brought them home, we placed a large delivery order of groceries to stock up for as long as possible. And then we waited for 14 days to pass.

Feeling nervous that we could still be asymptomatic and possibly infect my in-laws, we took the entire family to a local urgent care clinic for drive-up COVID-19 tests shortly before Memorial Day weekend. Getting swabbed is not fun, but trying to hold my preschooler’s head still while a nurse inserted a swab deep into her mouth was jarring. She’s fine now, but I’m not sure our daughter will forgive us anytime soon. My in-laws, in turn, also got tested.

After the tests came back negative, we packed up our suitcases and became giddy with the idea of a trip, regardless of the fact it takes seven hours to get to my in-laws’ house. In a way, it was like taking a vacation from the pandemic.

En route, we still wore masks and rubber gloves at gas stations and we used the restroom at McDonald’s. (Because, let’s face it, seven hours is just about impossible for children to ride without at least one bathroom pit stop.) It was eerie, during these stops and during a quick morning trip to the beach at Tybee Island one morning, to see so many other people not wearing masks and acting normal, as if there were no pandemic. While we didn’t wear masks on the beach, we did try to stay as far away as possible from others.

Going somewhere else, outside of our “new” normal routine, was the breath of fresh air we needed. Sitting with my feet in the sand, enjoying the waves while my kids looked for shark teeth among the shells at Tybee was a little taste of what our spring break would have been, had there been no pandemic. Visiting my in-laws, seeing our children spend time with their grandparents and staying in the house we normally go to twice a year was a break we very much needed. Despite the pandemic, it felt safe and familiar, because we knew my in-laws had also been taking precautions and practicing social distancing.

Getting away during a pandemic takes planning to do safely and there is still some risk involved. But for my family - it was a very much needed break from the norm, something that left us refreshed and ready to buckle down and stay home for the rest of the summer. And that was worth every minute of that seven-hour drive.

Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.