My Life as a Cabana Boy Assistant
by Dale Reeves
When I married into the Mullins’ family 36 years ago, I agreed to vacation with them, not knowing all that I was in for. My wife and I have traveled to Daytona Beach Shores for most of those years, with a few years spent in Okaloosa Island. Often, we drive through the beautiful mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, and down the coast on I-95. Other years we have driven most of the way on I-75, counting the police cars through five (or more) hours of the great state of Georgia. We have weathered smoke in the area from wildfires, rainy years, years when we thought a hurricane might be headed our way, years when it was blistering hot, years when we watched too many nights of “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel and wouldn’t allow the kids to venture out very far into the Atlantic Ocean.
In years past, we have had upwards of forty or more people vacationing together, including my wife’s folks, her brothers and their wives, aunts and uncles, all of our kids, and their cousins. We value multiple generations doing life together. Several of our loved ones have passed away and we greatly miss them and talk fondly of them while we are on the beach. . . . We remember with love Uncle Bill, Mark, Aunt Donna, Phil, and most recently, Aunt Judie, the queen of Trivial Pursuit. And, now, with our grandsons and the grandkids of Karen’s brothers, we are teaching the next generation the joys of coming together as a family for a week or more of building sandcastles, making memories, and eating out at our favorite local seafood spots. And, have I mentioned Publix? We love Publix . . . and their key lime pie!
That’s right. Every summer about this time in July I have a new title. I am the CBA, the “Cabana Boy Assistant.” It is perhaps the most important thing I will do while vacationing with the clan. I have had to undergo stringent training with the Cabana Boy, my brother-in-law, Greg, in order to fulfill the tasks of my role adequately. This job requires several things of me. First of all, I must meet Greg every morning on the beach at 8:00 am, which is when the beach access is open to cars and trucks. We store all the beach umbrellas, chairs, folding tables, cornhole boards, drill, and the “man shovel” in the bed of Greg’s GMC truck. I meet Greg on the beach for the unpacking of his truck while others in the family are still sound asleep. We discuss critical factors as it relates to how many umbrellas will be needed that day, their placement, and most importantly, appropriate seating arrangement so as to keep the family peace. Other considerations include what time high tide will be on that particular day, and that determines where the umbrellas and chairs will be positioned. Greg then marks off three and a half paces between umbrellas, while I lay out the chairs and umbrellas per the appropriate distance between them. Boy, I should have read the fine print before I signed on for this gig!
Then, it’s back to the hose by the pool at our vacation rental to wash off my feet and flip-flops, say good morning to the man who is hosing down the pool deck, and a “top of the morning” to the ladies doing early water aerobics. Then upstairs on our floor I get the daily weather report, and pack snacks, water, beach toys, and whatever sports equipment will be needed for that day’s competition. We then apply sunscreen liberally before heading back down for a day of fun in the sun. Meanwhile, some of the family members are still asleep, and they’ve missed the sunrise, and the prep for the day by the Cabana Boy and his assistant.
The next requirement of me in this CBA role is to stand at the ready on high alert, whenever God decides to bless us with a pop-up shower, or a full-on thunderstorm in the afternoon. When we perceive that rain is headed our way, the CB and I, and others who are on the beach, quickly jump into action, folding up chairs, uprooting umbrellas, breaking down tables, and corralling children and toys, trying to get to the hose by the pool and make it to shelter as soon as possible. At that point, I salute my commanding officer, as I am officially off the clock for the day, free to take a nap, indulge in some Blue Bell ice cream, read or study a bit, or discuss the menu for the evening meal.
Why do we repeat this rite in our extended family every July? Wouldn’t it be easier to just vacay closer to home? Is it worth the sand in our cars and the CB’s truck, the sunburns, the miles put on our vehicles, the money spent on gas, the tears of soggy-diapered toddlers getting used to ocean waves, the bitter experience of swallowing seawater, and the dreaded drive home to connect back with real life? Absolutely. Here’s why . . .
1. We value family time
When people ask me why we vacation with this amount of extended family members every year, I typically respond, “Life is too short. There are no guarantees in this life, are there?” As one of Karen’s cousins recently shared when his mom (our Aunt Judie) passed away, “Thank you for all the well wishes during my mother’s illness. One of the most enriching parts of her life was her relationship with all of you. Life is fragile. Hug your people.” Scott is spot on.
2. We are making memories
There were a few years when our now grown-up daughters were very little and I had the audacity to suggest maybe we shouldn’t meet everyone in Florida that summer, and instead do a family vacation out west a la Chevy Chase style. The females of the house looked at me as if to say, “Why would we want to do that, and miss the time on the beach with our cousins?” The memories through the years have only gotten richer as we have shared stories from generation to generation. Who can ever forget the year that my brother-in-law Barry turned 50 and we were going to set off 50 lanterns over the ocean? Sounded like an awesome idea his wife Pam had. But God decided to have the wind blowing toward the land that night, not out to sea. And we did it anyway!
3. We love surprises
We enjoy going to see minor league baseball, as the Daytona Tortugas (a Cincinnati Reds’ single A minor league team) take on various opponents. We never know which of our kids might get a foul ball, or set a new record eating hot dogs on “Belly Buster Wednesdays,” or who we might meet (such as the year we met former Cincinnati Bengal head coach Sam Wyche). We also never know what stories we might hear and who we might meet on the beach, in line at the local Krispy Kreme (see my previous blog about donuts), or at a weekend concert at the Daytona Beach bandshell. Just the other day we met the city manager of Daytona Beach at a concert, and heard part of his story. Today I am praying for Deric in his new role, as he’s only been on the job for just over a month . . . as he seeks to make decisions that will bring this community together and positively impact the local residents as well as yearly travelers like us.
This year at Christ’s Church, we have been talking about the motto, “Community Begins Here” quite a bit. Whether that is in the church building that meets at 5165 Western Row Rd. in Mason, the Monkey Bar campus, our other house campuses, or part of the body of Christ that is gathering on a beach somewhere, or another vacation spot, community happens when like-minded people experience life together. My prayer for you today is that you will experience some meaningful community. Hold that thought, my commanding officer just gave me the nod . . . time to beat the storm, and get off the beach!
“Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done” (Psalm 22:30, 31, NLT).