Last Summer. Creative non-fiction by Wendy Yim

I long for the irritation and inconvenience of leaving home, as I did last summer.

Last year, I planned a trip to the beach with our cousins, beloved family members separated by a ten-hour drive. We put the trip on our calendars, and counted down the days of school, then summer camps, picnics, and other commitments before the anticipated trip.

At the end of July, I spent two days packing our belongings before a day-long drive to meet the cousins. We are always the over-prepared family, the ones upon whom others depend for forgotten items. We might only use half the luggage and beach gear, but I packed it anyway.

We all arrived at our beach town destination just before dinnertime. Both family minivans were littered with the crumbs of long-distance travel, the mothers in need of more sleep, the fathers ready for beers. The kids unfolded themselves from backseats and reacquainted in the hotel parking lot. They insisted that, for the rest of the trip, they would only need grown-ups for emergencies and money.

Each July, we willingly exchanged home for the excitement and exhaustion of a new place where every aspect of each day had to be conferred. Meals were negotiated thrice daily. Joint forms of entertainment were planned and sacked at least four. Daily pool-visits—at least two— required a scheduled, vigilant parent.

The coming evening’s sleeping arrangements for seven children spread across eight years began as soon as everyone awoke, and continued throughout the day. The kids jockeyed sleep pairings and locations, campaigning their whims like politicians. Nighttime culminated in an eruption of last minute bed-hopping, and suitcases forgotten in wrong hotel rooms long after parents were grouchy and tired.

On the last day of the trip, we cousins hugged goodbye in the hotel lobby, and said we couldn’t wait to do it again next year. After we got home, unpacked, and caught up on sleep for a week, we meant it.

Today, I look at my 2020 calendar, empty of the plans of past summers, of camps and trips to look forward to with enthusiasm or trepidation. I suppose we could make those plans, but the thought of erasing yet another from our calendar is unbearable.

Although we cannot see it, we know the ocean is still there. We still own the tent we used last summer, in the fog-filtered sunshine of that July weekend. The beach pails I brought, then stored in our garage, still have a rime of salt and sand at their bottoms. The tips of the long metal skewers are still sticky with marshmallows roasted over a fire at sunset. Our beach blankets, upon which we napped in ignorance, are re-folded and waiting in cupboards. The beach chairs have been repurposed to our backyard in an attempt to recreate indefinite vacation at home.

Now I’m glad we dragged too much to the beach last year. I’m grateful for the forgotten shells, and bits of wave-smoothed glass, traces of our family’s past joy rediscovered when we shake out our gear, and find ways to use it in our backyard.

Looking at this year’s calendar, I long for the inconvenience of family vacations. I want the complications and mess of a place not home. I miss negotiating over how the next hour will be spent, trying to please people we love and haven’t seen for a long time. And, I am reminded that this is exactly why we leave when we can: to make memories that will carry us forward when we cannot.


Wendy Yim’s fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in The Birdland Journal and HerStry. She is at work on a novel and short story collection set in the 1970s. Wendy resides in Seattle, WA. She’s always the most prepared person on a trip.

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