All it takes is a month or two of cold weather to get me reminiscing about warm memories.  Last summer’s vacation will not soon be forgotten. I was always envious of my friends who created annual family fun at the ocean or lakeside. My husband and I were determined to have that experience. We coordinated the dates with other family members who rented a house around the corner.  Unfortunately, our family event devolved into something else.

Last winter we found a rental house online at Fire Island.  It was a conical shape with several large decks. The clinching attributes were that it slept 10, had air conditioning, a hot tub, wi-fi and two baths. All last winter we readied ourselves, buying necessary bed linens, games to play on languid evenings and whatever else we could conjure up for this magical event.

The July day finally arrived with tremendous preparation and anticipation. All parties made it to the dock for the agreed upon ferry, with tons of baggage plus skimboards. Thankfully, we had bought two collapsible wagons to transport many food bags.

Arriving on the Island with our circled maps, we headed down the hot boardwalk. Not ten feet along, we were besieged by mosquitoes. Each of us were fending off ten to twenty at a time. It then became a race to find the house before we were devoured. Our grandson won and ran to the upper landing but found no lock box. The kids were beginning to freak out and were in danger of concussions from slapping mosquitoes. We spotted another pathway on the side deck around the corner.  Two volunteers ran with the code to lock box.

Shaken, we tumbled into what we thought would be an expansive living room. It might have accommodated two people with four bags, but definitely not six adults, two children, four wagons and multiple suitcases. There was little or no storage space, so it became quite a rubix cube of movement to settle in and unload. The kids were excited about the hot tub, but said they wouldn’t leave the house because of the flesh-eating bugs.

I spent the next few hours trying to fix the air conditioners, screen doors that kept coming off the tracks, the dishwasher that had no hot water, the outside umbrella that opened halfway and most important, figuring out how to turn on the smart tv, while the others were unpacking.  The kids bunk beds were in a musty utility space, which they refused to use.  Therefore, they slept on the living room futons, which caused everyone to have an early curfew. The other bedrooms were on the first floor, that eerily felt like a  basement.  In order to get there you had to climb down a ladder or go outside down the steps onto the deck to another door way. The rooms were hot, damp and dark.

The next morning, my husband convinced our grandson to go walking with him. They made it to the corner, but came running back immediately covered with bloody bug bites. By noon the mosquitoes seemed to be settling down so we ventured out and ran to the beach. Unfortunately, within a short time on the beach, our son-in-law was not feeling well, so he and my daughter packed up and headed for home which was three hours away. The rest of us tried to make the best of day one, while waiting to hear of their safe arrival and of his health condition.

Each successive day had us huddled in the house until noon and then running to the store, ocean or other nearby relatives while slapping ourselves silly. I pointed out that we resembled the Bavarian Slap Dance, which no one else found particularly funny. On one of her trips down the ladder, our granddaughter slipped and scraped her back. That had us all rattled until we realized she was okay. By the afternoon, the deck was not a bad mosquito zone so the kids made good use of the eight man hot tub and our granddaughter soothed her sore back.

We finally began to relax and settle into a routine. Our son-in-law was doing well. We had repaired all the appliances and oiled the screen doors.  Doused in Deet and/or our natural repellant, which really didn’t work, we spent a few fun days at the beach trying not to wonder if our lifespan would be shortened by chemicals or bug born diseases.

Our other son-in-law had to go to the mainland for work and was to rejoin us the next day. Little did he know he would be doing that in the dark.  As the sun was setting on the fifth day, we realized that the fans had stopped and all electricity surrounding us was out. We scrambled to find some little tea lights with batteries, a few flashlights and set up for a long hot night on the futons. Our daughter sat up with her flashlight trying to follow the mosquito drones. Ultimately they landed on our granddaughter, who got slapped repeatedly but didn’t wake up.

We woke up sweaty, without power and the realization that our food had spoiled. This meant that we had to leave for home a day early.  Our last day was spent cleaning out the two refrigerators and freezers, throwing out all our food and packing for home. As we were running down the walkway, one of the wagons fell off carrying our grandson with it into the brush. Our daughter pulled him and the wagon up single-handedly without missing a beat or being bitten by a tick. We were never so happy to get home, except that in our hasty retreat, I had left my diamond earrings in a bowl on the shelf in the house…

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